Dusk at Sandrine's v.2
Dedication: Queco, I wrote the new ending for you. Don't know why it happened. I hope you're happy. You owe me. Sorcha, Sara, Tara, and Queco for beta-reading the original, and Queco for beta-reading the new ending.
Disclaimer: Not a single character is mine, but the story is. As far as I know, this gets me no money, so sueing is pretty pointless, unless your desperately eager for my underwear collection.
Tom Paris' suggestion that the potluck be moved to Sandrine's had been a good idea. Captain Kathryn Janeway still thought so even as she nursed her fourth synthale of the night in the darkest corner of the room, far away from the dim lights of a twenty-fourth century bar. Even farther from the people who came to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the program. Here, she knew, they could forget, at least for a little while.
From the beginning of time, that had been the point of bars, when the first man watched his grain rot and had the bright idea of drinking the liquid residue in the old shed out back with a few fellow farmers and bewail the weather. To forget, even if for a moment, a second, the conflict in their lives, the struggles they'd endured.
The crew hadn't come here just to forget the Equinox. They came to forget the rumors of their Captain's actions. Forget that the First Officer had been removed from duty.
She took another drink, wincing at the taste but swallowing anyway.
She suspected Tom knew this. God knew he'd used alcohol, synthehol, take your pick, to forget.
She could see him, in the faint light from the small dance floor, standing with Harry and the Doctor near the bar. Talking. Laughing, maybe, it was just a little too loud to tell. The music he'd added in drowned out all voices to indistinct murmurs.
The swirl of the different dancing couples blocked her vision occasionally, when she glanced at the doors. She was waiting for someone. Her gaze went back to Tom and company, a group that had grown to include Sue Nicoletti and a member of Harry Kim's ops department.
She could see he was drinking tonight. He'd had several since her arrival. His energy had been far too high all evening--almost relentlessly social. Perhaps only to her, it also drew attention to the fact he was alone here, too.
She wondered where B'Elanna was.
Oddly enough, in a room full of people--her crewmembers, her friends, all her subordinates--she felt alone.
She'd felt that way for a long time. She took another drink, shaking her head at her own weakness. Why the hell was she here, anyway? Ah, that's right, crew morale. Let them see their Captain hadn't become a monster willing to play judge, jury, and executioner in the name of revenge.
Instead, they could see their Captain get quietly drunk in a corner. Much more appropriate.
Her croutons were sitting on the edge of the buffet table, removed from the other dishes by some space.
Waiting for a salad.
Chakotay hadn't arrived.
She told herself she didn't regret it, that everything she had done, that she had ordered, had been right. Not for the sake of crew unity, not even for the sake of the First Officer she'd learned to trust and respect, could she admit she might have been wrong. Maybe, just maybe, if she kept telling herself that, she'd believe it, too.
Respect was still there. Trust was a different issue altogether. For both of them.
She blinked, realizing she had been staring at the croutons for far too long. Her eyes met the concerned blue of her chief pilot, and she squelched her disappointment. She suspected he saw it anyway, though his face was thankfully blank of anything except concern.
He smiled a little and she nodded for him to pull up a chair. Funny, her relationships with her senior staff had changed so much in the last six months. Why was it only now, only this moment, that she realized it? Tom, Harry, B'Elanna...Chakotay.
No. Not now. It hurt too much.
He had a glass in his hand; the color of the liquid within was indistinguishable in the faint light of this corner. He played with it idly before taking a drink. She sipped hers as well, wondering how to start a conversation that wouldn't shatter this fantasy world.
Not the holodeck. She meant the bar.
The place you went to forget pain.
"Do you want to dance, Captain?"
Her eyes met his, catching the expression on his face a moment before it disappeared. A year ago, it never would have been there at all, but that much had changed. That much openness had been achieved.
All it had cost him was his rank.
That expression. So he was drinking to forget something too.
Max Burke? Or B'Elanna? Suddenly, she didn't feel quite so alone.
"Yes." And she stood up, putting the glass down unsteadily on the table, feeling light-headed. That much synthale? She didn't know for certain.
He took her gently by the elbow, leading her over to the floor, before turning, still giving her the option of changing her mind. Wondering, perhaps, if she would pull away, decide against the impulse, but she drew close, letting his arms go around her waist. She remembered, all unwitting, a young cadet at Starfleet Academy at that first nightmarish freshman mixer, more years ago than she cared to remember. He'd stepped on her foot and tried to blow in her ear, in the process getting it wet.
She smiled a little at the memory. That had been the first and last time she'd attended a freshman mixer without a date of her own, one who respected the boundaries she placed at the moment of contact.
Tom was a good dancer, and she wasn't surprised. A captain even now, she fought the impulse to lead, relaxing a little into the close but not too close embrace. He was a pilot, after all. If he could fly the temperamental Delta Flyer, he could certainly maneuver on a dance floor.
"You changed the program," she said softly, near his ear. Conversation wasn't necessary, but now, when it wasn't forced, she felt the contrary urge to talk.
"It needed more space, so for tonight I moved the pool table out," he said, equally soft. "And the dance floor was expanded, after some enterprising crewmembers started a ballroom dancing class."
She grinned and glanced up at him.
"It's smokier. I can't smell it, but I can see it," she answered.
"Ah, that." She could hear the embarrassment in his voice, and the slight hint of pride. "Yeah, well, authenticity."
"Not that anyone smokes anymore, Tom."
"No, but Sandrine's had an old-fashioned fireplace--you know, the kind that burns wood. During winter break, when I went there, it was always smoky, and you could see the soot collect on the stone. Sometimes, she wouldn't even activate the heater, just let the fire do its work."
"You added a fireplace?" She was surprised; she hadn't seen it.
"A few weeks ago. It's where the piano used to be." He turned them in a slow circle, and her eyes found what he indicated without her having to move her head at all.
Large and stone, with a fire inside. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen one of those. A fire. A real fire, that is, not a holographic one.
Maybe those long days on that planet after Seska's takeover? Maybe on New Earth, had Chakotay built a fireplace for them, or a fire? It blended together in her mind, memories bittersweet.
Their turn brought the buffet table into view again. Her croutons were still there, alone at the side of the table.
The space beside them for the salad was still empty. She gritted her teeth.
"Where's B'Elanna?" she asked abruptly, forcing away the image.
The slightest stiffening of the shoulders beneath her hands. So slight, so quickly gone, she might have imagined it.
That was all, and that one word told her everything. There had been some damage after the battle with the Equinox, and of course B'Elanna would want to oversee the repairs personally.
Of course she would.
"She'll be here when she's done." It was more of an expression of hope than a statement of fact.
"You want to talk about it, Tom?"
He didn't respond for a moment, and she wondered, with embarrassed regret, if she'd presumed too much.
"There's nothing to talk about," he answered finally. His voice sounded a little too offhand. "She's still a little upset by what happened with Burke." And that was all.
Janeway didn't need explanations. She knew, just as Tom did, how the engineer's mind worked. Fair or not. His hand tightened on her waist for a moment.
"Chakotay went to help her re-align the plasma manifolds," Tom continued neutrally, and Janeway sighed to herself. Maybe Tom felt it, maybe he didn't. She turned her head away, hiding her expression. She could interpret Tom' statement easily enough.
B'Elanna had wanted to talk. Just not with Tom.
Chakotay had wanted to talk. Just not with her.
Tom's expression now made perfect sense.
"He'll be here when he's done," she said softly, her voice low. She took in his ensemble for the first time. She'd often noted his choices of off-duty clothes ended up being in the red/brown spectrum, and wondered if there was a reason for such an preference. Not that anyone needed a reason for a favorite color, of course.
She decided her scientific mind needed to rest. Another song had begun. Tom didn't let her go. She didn't move away.
She took a deep breath, inhaling the smell of aftershave, clean cotton, soap. An unfamiliar smell. Pleasant in the warmth of the bar. Comforting.
Like his arms around her.
If only all her relationships were this easy. Tom, while probably the highest-maintenance member of her senior staff professionally, was a remarkably low-maintenance friend. At least for her. One of the few people who didn't demand any more of her than she wanted to give. And despite his actions on the Monean homeworld, one of the few, other than Tuvok, she trusted unconditionally.
Chakotay had been the other.
God, she hated the past tense. It was never pleasant.
Her hands tightened at the thought, and he let her draw him a little closer. She could feel his heartbeat now, a little faster. An involuntary response.
She closed her eyes to block the sight of the crewmembers watching them. She wondered what they thought at the sight of their Captain and the Chief Helmsman dancing together.
She wondered if it mattered.
It probably did. She didn't care. Apparently, neither did he. Of course he didn't. He'd lived his life on Voyager surrounded by rumors. One more wouldn't mean a damn thing.
Maybe she'd drank too much tonight. Maybe he had too. In fact, she knew they both had.
Maybe she should care.
A slow turn, and he let her go, swinging her carefully by one long-fingered hand into a gentle spin, drawing her close again without missing a beat. Their eyes met for a moment. Natural rhythm. Characteristic in pilots, if Justin had been any indication.
She'd only danced with Justin a few times, none of those times in public. None should have been in public, for that matter. They always ended differently from where they began.
Justin. Her first fiancee, dead now almost fifteen years. She blinked abruptly. She'd never been very good at keeping her men.
At the end of the song, they returned to the table to finish their drinks and ordered more. They watched each other, a little uncertain, a little wary, but when he silently took her hand from the table, she led the way. She slid an arm around his neck this time, let his hands travel up her back. Felt his chin rest in her hair.
One place where there were no expectations. One pair of eyes that didn't look on her with judgement, or dart away with embarrassment. Just Tom, who'd trusted her enough to believe that whatever she chose to do was right.
The one person who didn't have disappointment in his eyes. Or betrayal.
Like Chakotay did.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Bars were places to forget. Alcohol was the means of forgetting. So far, it wasn't working.
"How much will it take?" she whispered, uncertain whether the words had actually been spoken or thought. What was she saying? This couldn't be good etiquette between officer and subordinate. Yet, she couldn't bring herself to stop. Maybe he couldn't either.
"Depends on how much you need to forget." One of his hands slid down her spine to her waist.
She wondered if the crew was still watching.
She wondered what B'Elanna would say if she could see this.
"A lot," she answered.
Chakotay's face in the cargo bay. His face in the briefing room. His face when she'd freed him of restriction to quarters.
The last one. Definitely the last one.
She wondered what it was Tom wanted to forget. What had been said; what had been seen. His thigh brushed hers. The warmth cut through her trousers, heating her skin.
What would keep B'Elanna talking to Chakotay and not to Tom. She slid her hand under his arm, around his back. Felt his hand on the back of her neck, under her hair.
God, she felt warm.
What did it mean in a relationship, when your partner couldn't talk to you?
Which one of them did she mean? Tom or herself?
"How much do you need to forget, Tom?" Her fingers touched the short, silky hair at the nape of his neck, almost unconsciously.
That answered a lot of questions.
His leg brushed hers gently in another turn. His back was strong beneath her fingers. She could feel his breath stir her hair. The hand on her back flattened between her shoulder blades. Her heartbeat increased suddenly, pounding in her ears.
This was dangerous.
Maybe, just maybe, she didn't care.
Her eyes opened to look into his.
Somehow, they managed to avoid leaving together. Tom walked back to Harry, she found their glasses and disposed of them.
He was waiting at her quarters when she arrived. Unsteadily, she opened her door, walked in.
"This is a mistake." She backed away a little. Her head was clearing, though not much. Not enough to stop, in any case.
"I know." He hadn't moved once the door closed behind him. Watched her with clear blue eyes.
"We'll both regret it in the morning." Why was she even bothering with these ridiculous dime-novel lines?
"I know that too."
"Do you care?"
He took two steps, touching her lips with two long fingers, stopping whatever else she would have said.
"Computer, run whatever music is playing in Holodeck 2 right now." He looked back down at her. Waiting.
They were both too drunk, too hurt, to be making this decision. She took one step forward, felt his arms go around her, and lifted her head. His lips brushed hers. She slid her hands behind his neck, leaning in to deepen the kiss as he pulled her flat against his body. She could feel his erection through the loose pants they both wore, hard against her stomach. He loosened her blouse, pulling it out of her trousers as she unfastened his shirt to the waist, running her fingers over the exposed muscled chest. Abruptly, he raised her off her feet, and she wrapped her legs around his waist as he traced her neck with the tip of his tongue, one hand buried in her hair, drawing her head back. She closed her eyes, leaning her full weight into him.
He let her lift her head, and she found his mouth as she pulled her shirt up, breaking contact so he could get it over her head, before she wrapped both arms around his bare shoulders, his shirt finally discarded on the floor at his feet.
She couldn't honestly say she hadn't thought of this before. She had.
She'd never been kissed the way Tom was kissing her, filling her mouth so completely she couldn't make a sound, not even when his hands found her breasts, thumbs gently brushing the nipples hard, then the hard palms were sliding down her sides, coming to the closure of her trousers, unfastening so quickly she had barely realized he was doing it before he set her on her feet, kneeling to remove them. He followed their slow descent down her legs with his hands, making her grit her teeth, her hands clench on his shoulders. Then even more slowly, her underwear, until she numbly stepped out of them, her skin goosebumping from the touch of his fingers against her naked ankle.
"God, you're beautiful," he said softly, almost reverently, his hands moving back up from her ankles, her calves, her thighs, her hips, her waist, curving around her breasts to her face, cupping it gently, tilting it up. Kissing her again, brushing his tongue over her teeth, tracing the line of them before pushing hard, opening her mouth, then withdrawing, encouraging her to do the same to him.
It had been so long. Too long.
She unfastened his trousers as she kissed him, pushing them and the boxers down at once, pushing his hand away when he would have helped her, wanting to do it herself. The smooth skin of his back and buttocks beneath her fingers. When he squeezed her breast, she dug her nails in reflexively, feeling rather than hearing his low growl into her mouth. He backed them up until the side of the couch was pressed against her knees, and he lifted her up onto it, then gently lowered her over it, following her without breaking contact with her mouth. She brushed one hand through the short blonde hair distractedly and he caught both her hands, pinning them to the couch beside her head, lifting his mouth away to lower it to her neck, and she caught her breath as his teeth sank into her shoulder. His head came up sharply.
"You don't like that?"
She shook her head quickly.
"I like it."
He studied her face, then smiled a little, and she drew in a sharp breath when he bit into her neck again before beginning the delicate tracery of her throat with his tongue, following a path to her ear, sucking delicately at the lobe before licking lightly at the interor. She shivered at every gently brush of his tongue.
God, the room was warm. Sweat broke out on her skin where he touched it. She tried to free her hands and found she couldn't: she felt rather than saw him grin against her neck.
Then he moved his mouth to her breast.
Her whole body jumped as he traced the nipple with his tongue, letting the air do its work, before moving to the other one. She pushed against his grip on her wrists and he momentarily freed them, lacing their fingers together before slamming them back down into the cushions. She caught her breath.
"Open your legs for me," he whispered softly before sucking one hard nipple into his mouth. She braced one leg on the floor, parting them as he slid further down, freeing one of her hands, pulling the other with him until it rested on her stomach. Gently, he parted her with his fingers and she felt the careful brush of his tongue.
Then another brush, a little firmer, drawing a low sound from her throat. Another gentle brush, then he thrust his tongue into her, sucking hard, and she cried out, back arching. She laced one hand through his short hair, holding him in place when he didn't seem to have any intention of moving, and his free hand grasped her hip. She felt a low growl from him again, wondered rather vaguely if he'd always done that, or if it was something B'Elanna had taught him, and quickly banished the thought.
She didn't need to think of anyone else right now. Luckily, that was easy, when he caught her clitoris between his teeth.
"Tom." It came out as more a groan than a name.
Then a slow rhythm began--a thrust of his tongue into her, a brush across her clitoris. He lifted her leg, sliding it over his shoulder, and she braced her foot against his back as he pressed even deeper. God. She savored the feeling, her body heating up faster than she could ever remember it doing before.
It had been too long.
The rhythm speeded up, her breathing raggedly following, and she felt herself begin to tremble, tightening her grip on his hand, feeling so damned close. She tilted her head back, closing her eyes to savor the feeling he was expertly stoking in her.
"Not yet," he said softly, lifting his head. Damn he was good, able to judge just how close she was. He slid himself back up her body, her leg moving down over his arm to his hip, and she pulled his head down to hers, taking his mouth hard, tasting herself there, arching her hips. He caught her hand, pressing both again to the cushions, and entered her in one hard thrust.
He swallowed her moan, letting her adapt for minute, trembling against her, before beginning a slow rhythm inside her. She wrapped both legs around him, tightening every time he thrust, locking her ankles behind his back, moving to meet him. Never freeing his mouth, she couldn't get enough of the taste of him, of herself on him, of the feel of his tongue against hers.
She had no idea of time as he carefully began to speed his movements in her, and she finally had to breathe, pulling her mouth away to gasp in air, unable to stop. He whispered something against her collarbone, before his mouth moved up her neck, to her jaw, tracing it, kissing it, scraping her sensitive skin with his teeth, biting, making her gasp, moan, whisper words that didn't mean anything. His fingers tightened in hers, bracing himself, and suddenly the rhythm sped up, becoming stronger, harder, pushing her head against the arm of the couch. She groaned at the building in her, slowly and steadily, beginning to want release--
And his eyes caught hers, not letting her look away. She stared back, into blue so dark it seemed to pull her in, drag her as deeply into him as he was in her. His breathing was shallow against her lips, and she kissed him again, eyes open, unable to look anywhere else.
Her body trembled, and the slickness of their sweat slid them against each other at every movement, her nipples against the hair on his chest, a friction she couldn't get enough of. She turned her head away, and his hand let go of hers, grasping her jaw, forcing her head back, keeping that intense gaze locked with hers.
"That's it, Kathryn. Look at me." And he moved harder into her, faster, she couldn't keep her breathing up with her heart, used her free hand to grab his shoulder, nails digging in, and she realized he liked that. Sliding her hand under his arm, she found his back, drawing her nails down as slowly, as deeply as she could with each thrust, hearing him groan.
He let her face go, drawing his fingers down to her breast, playing with the nipple for a moment, before sliding down farther, between her legs to the tiny hard nub, stroking it once, twice, three time, then pinching lightly--
--and her climax dissolved the world around her. She cried out something, she had no idea what, nails digging into whatever flesh was in her grasp, legs tightening around him, feeling him speed up even more, she had no idea how, and he climaxed with her, yelling something she couldn't understand before collapsing, head buried in her neck.
Several minutes passed and neither could move, trying to find their breath, listening to the slowing of their hearts. Finally, he gently moved off, sliding to lay beside her, then got up. Before she could wonder where he'd gone, he was back, draping the blanket over her before laying back down, drawing her into his arms, and she put her head on his chest, closing her eyes, feeling his fingers entwined in her hair.
Sleep came quickly.
* * * * *
Tom must have been awake long before she was. He'd showered and gotten dressed and was sitting on the floor by the couch. Slowly, she rolled over, aware of the soreness between her legs, and pulled the blanket closer. An automatic reaction that amused her a little.
When she could see his face, she noted the blankness of his expression.
"Are you sorry?" she asked. He turned to meet her gaze. Not surprised to see her awake, despite the suddenness of it.
"I don't know." He looked away, staring out the viewport.
She wrapped the blanket around herself, sitting up, and without looking at her he joined her on the couch. They didn't touch, content to watch the stars.
"I should be sorry," he said softly. "I want to be."
"So do I," she admitted. From the corner of her eye, she saw his reluctant grin. A more comfortable silence.
"Are you going to tell B'Elanna?"
He glanced at her, then turned to look out the viewport for a moment, a wry smile twisting his lips.
"Computer, location of Lieutenant Torres?"
:::Lieutenant Torres is on Deck 9, Section 12, room 12B."
She looked at him, uncomprehending, and the wry grin grew a little bitter.
"Computer, location of Commander Chakotay?"
:::Commander Chakotay is on Deck 9, Section 12, room 12B."
She blinked, feeling the blood drain from her face. He shook his head, the little smile growing more natural.
"How long?" Somehow, it just hadn't occurred to her. Now, in retrospect--
"Let's just say a long time," he answered quietly. "And don't try to tell me they're just talking. I guess what I tell her depends on what she tells me, huh?"
Janeway was thinking of another aspect.
"But if she checked where you were--"
"I left my commbadge in my room before coming here." He leaned back against the cushions, arms relaxed at his sides, face a little pale. "I should go."
Her head ached a little, and different tastes battled for dominance on her tongue. Sweat, synthale...other flavors she couldn't identify.
Maybe she was a little drunk still. She knew this was wrong, but there was nothing in her but a kind of warm satisfaction.
Tom Paris was very much the lover his reputation said he was. Even better. She couldn't regret that.
He hadn't moved to leave, still watching the stars.
He looked at her blankly, then called himself back from wherever he'd gone, turning a little to face her. Tentatively, she touched his cheek, slightly rough beneath her fingers. He leaned into the caress, for a moment, then stood up.
"Your back?" She didn't want him to leave just yet.
His eyes widened, and he grinned suddenly, a real grin that made her smile back.
"I forgot. Yeah, you have a regenerator in here?"
She pointed to the bathroom and followed him in. He let her heal the marks, some of which had drawn blood. By the look of the skin, though, he'd had plenty that he had allowed to heal naturally. Many. She traced one absently with a finger when she was done, then felt him take the regenerator from her, tilting her head up. She frowned and he grinned again, turning her to the mirror.
So he'd drawn blood too. He drew the dermal around the bites, and she was almost sorry to see them go. They walked out of the bathroom, and he picked up his vest.
She nodded and he quietly left.
She sank down on the couch, looking at her hands, the nails streaked with blood.
She wished she was sorry. But she wasn't.
* * * * *
An hour later, as Tom had been pretty sure would be the case, B'Elanna showed up at his quarters. She let herself in, blinking to see him waiting on the couch. She looked tired and her hair, though she'd tried to put it in order, was still a mess. She must have literally just woken up.
That was B'Elanna, straight to her core. Couldn't even take time to shower before confessing.
Under one small ear was a fading bruise. He averted his eyes. He knew she didn't have a dermal regenerator in her quarters--he'd taken it to Sickbay to get it re-charged. Right now, he regretted that. It would be easier without evidence.
Though he had no intention of letting that change his mind.
She looked nervous. She shifted from foot to foot, trying to start, obviously looking for the words. He let her search, settling his elbows on his knees, waiting.
"Tom--" she stopped, biting her lip. Guilt was written so clearly on her face he worried if she'd passed any crewmembers on her way here.
"You don't have to say anything," he said softly, watching her too-straight posture. The brown eyes widened for a moment. She opened her mouth again, then closed it tightly, catching the words behind her teeth. "Unless it is something I need to know. Do I need to know, B'Elanna?"
He waited a beat, then continued.
"Because otherwise, I don't want to know. Anything."
She didn't answer for a moment, then, abruptly, her shoulders relaxed. He let out a breath at her guilty relief. Nothing he needed to know. Thank God. Her eyes traveled over him carefully, and she blinked again.
He let her look, take it in. He'd known she would guess, the minute she saw him. B'Elanna's powers of observation were excellent. Her eyes took in the posture, the clothes--the expression.
Realization dawned. Her body stiffened, and something flashed in the brown eyes. He set his teeth, understanding how she felt. He hoped she'd reach the same conclusion he had, when he left the Captain's quarters.
Slowly, she sank down onto the chair across from him. Not looking at him.
"Do I need to know anything, Tom?" Her voice trembled. She stared at the carpet numbly, her hair hiding her face, then looked up. He spent a moment, bitter beyond imagining, thinking she might cry.
Keeping her gaze in his, he shook his head slowly.
"Just that I love you." Meaning it.
Nothing, and he tensed for her answer. She didn't break the lock, looking straight back, the conflict so clear in her eyes he could trace it's progress. Then, just as suddenly, the resolution. Her lips tried to smile.
"I love you too."
He held out a hand and she walked over, curling up in his lap like a sleepy kitten, arms going around his neck. Tightening, possessive. He cradled her close, half-expecting her to wince, but she only burrowed closer, her breath a staccato rush against his throat.
Neither of them needed to know. Whatever had happened the night before. God knew, there were so many things they should talk about, they didn't need to add in the ones that they didn't.
"Tell me about Max Burke," he whispered into her hair. He brushed it back from her forehead with one hand, gently. Felt the short burst of tension, then relaxation.
After a moment, she did.