Disclaimer:The Trek universe belongs to Paramount
Summary:Back in the Alpha Quadrant, Tom Paris has lunch with his father.
NOTE: This story is a response to a challenge issued by august -- write a story set after Voyager's return in which someone has lunch with Kathryn Janeway. I've interpreted the phrase "with Kathryn Janeway" somewhat liberally.
Three doubles. Or was it four? The scotch was smooth and burning and real in his throat, and Tom Paris thought of nothing more than that. He signaled for a fourth. Or was it fifth?
"Not another, son?" The voice came from a distance. His father. It was his father. They were on Earth.
"Yes. Another," Tom said. Or meant to say. May have said. He thought the words, at any rate.
He noticed with detached interest that the sunlight streaming through the restaurant window was turning his father into a collection of discrete planes. Funny. That was funny. The formidable Admiral Owen Paris reduced to a sun-brightened ear, a bobbing Adam's apple, a shadowed jowl.
"Lunch," his father had said the day before. "I'd like to take you to lunch, son. Just us. We have a lot of catching up to do."
So they were having lunch. Voyager had been back for a month, there had been debriefings and rumors and fame and scrutiny, and now Tom was sitting with his father in an exclusive, Fleet-brass-only restaurant in San Francisco, and they were having lunch.
Tom forced himself to focus on the sun-etched curves that were his father's lips. They were moving. Tom frowned, concentrating.
". . .know it's been an ordeal," his father was saying. "But you've all held up well. Those damned Maquis behaved better than we could have expected. Uh. . .that is. . .now, Tom, you know the whole family thinks your B'Elanna is. . .delightful."
Delightful. And "his." Tom took a rather large gulp of his fourth scotch. Or fifth.
"Then there's Kathryn," Owen chattered on. "Hell, Kathryn could probably be elected President of the Federation if she wanted to. But she's being tight-lipped about her plans. Has she said anything to you? I'm sure you know her better than I do, now."
Tom wanted to laugh. He knew her, all right. But he hadn't seen Kath. . .Captain Janeway since. . .well, since the last time he'd seen her. A week? Two? Did it matter? He'd seen -- and not seen -- a lot of people since Voyager had returned. It wasn't as if he had any particular reason to see Janeway.
His father's lips were still moving, but something seemed to be wrong with his voice. His words began to fade and flatten, until they weren't words any more, but shapes formed by the hard-edged sun and shadow. Tom could see them, layered and oddly cubic. Like 20th-century art.
He shook his head. That couldn't be. The shapes weren't words. The shapes were his father. Well, bits and pieces of his father. And his father was talking. About Kathryn Janeway.
The scotch was smooth and burning and real in his throat, and Tom Paris tried to think of nothing but that. He didn't want to think of the last time he had seen the Captain. Really seen her.
Seven months and twelve days before Voyager got home. She had been lying on the couch in her quarters. Lying naked beneath him, her legs wrapped around his waist, her hips rocking to meet his. Tom had been kissing her, and he had lifted his head because he wanted to see the curve of her cheek and jaw, wanted to watch the subtly shifting planes of her face as she responded to his thrusts.
She had looked beautiful.
He cradled his glass, breathing deeply. But the scent that filled his head was not scotch. It was the scent of Kathryn's skin, mingled salt and sweet, inseparable from the taste of her, from the smooth, burning softness of her body.
He didn't know what it was they had had together. Not a relationship. Not an affair. Something more fundamental? Something that, for a moment, had stopped the endless drift of space?
Tom tried to focus on one of the blocks that danced before his eyes. It suddenly seemed important to him to put the fragments of his father back together. But now the shapes he saw were not his father at all. They were part of a room. A tiny room that Tom didn't want to see.
A room on an away mission. The away mission. He and the Captain had gone to a planet. One of those typical, sanity-forsaken, Delta Quadrant planets. With aliens like none he'd ever seen and like all he'd ever seen. Hard-eyed. Suspicious. Hostile.
They had been dying, the aliens. Their whole fucking planet had been dying. . .of a virus or bacteria or whatever shit it was that always seemed to be threatening the end of civilization as some useless Delta Quadrant life-forms knew it.
Another one of the Captain's mercy missions. Saving everyone else, because she sure as hell didn't seem to be able to save herself. Or want to.
Or maybe she had never been lost.
"Tom? Tom!" His father again. Tom found himself back in San Francisco, in the restaurant so expensive that it wasn't automated: each course was served by a real waiter. An honest-to-god, flesh-and-blood, Alpha Quadrant human. Well, humanoid, anyway. But definitely AQ. And at the moment, hovering deferentially near their table.
"Are you ready to order, son? I think you need some solid food to go with all that alcohol. You're shaking."
"Whatever you're having," Tom said. He was shaking. But it wasn't because of the scotch. He was angry. Or something. Unsettled. Afraid. He wanted. . .
The aliens hadn't wanted. They hadn't wanted a photonic doctor, they hadn't wanted to deal with the gut-turning ugliness of off-world bipedals, they hadn't wanted Voyager's fucking charity.
But they had wanted to live. So in the end, they had agreed to allow Tom and the Captain to beam down. Her because they insisted on the highest-ranking officer. Probably figured she'd make a useful hostage. And him, because Janeway had finally convinced them that she couldn't fix their health problems herself.
In truth, no one could fix the aliens' problems, and Tom was sure that Janeway knew it as well as he did. "Why didn't you just tell them to forget it?" he had asked as he walked beside her to the transporter room. She hadn't answered.
She had been different by then. Different from the idealist of the early days. She had scared the shit out of him in those first years, with her overwhelming confidence, her compassion, her optimism. This other woman, the woman she had become, was someone he could understand. Strong. Alone. No less passionate than she had been. But different. Fearless in a way that he'd only seen in one other person. Himself.
"It's like she thinks she has nothing to lose."
Tom started. The words seemed to have been spoken aloud. By the pair of lips in the cube of sunlight that blazed before him. But how had his father known. . .?
No. . .it wasn't his father. Somehow, now, it was B'Elanna. Saying what she had said one night on Voyager. After the Borg Queen, was it? Or the Equinox?
"It's like she thinks she has nothing to lose."
"You don't get it, B'Elanna. You never got it," Tom told her. In his mind.
He had gotten it. He had understood. The Captain knew she had everything to lose. Every time. And she risked it.
Eyes open, knowing, she risked it. All. Every time.
Chicken-shit Chakotay had bailed on her. So had Tuvok, almost.
"Did you, Tom?"
His father. Again. Talking. Again. "Did you want anything else?" The voice had an edge to it, now.
It occurred to Tom, fleetingly, that he was fucking up the father-son luncheon party.
He ignored the food that had been placed before him and tapped his glass. "A refill," he said.
"How about some coffee instead," Owen asked, jovially this time. Too jovially. "In honor of your Captain, eh?"
"A refill," Tom said.
His father sat back in his chair, leaving a shaft of empty sunlight. Tom stared at the golden beam. It had been a long time since he'd seen a beam that wasn't blue. That wasn't like the one that had transported him and Janeway down to the dying alien planet, down to a culture fractured by paranoia and fear. They had tried to help, but found their every proposal endlessly debated. And then always refused. Their every conversation was recorded, their every movement relentlessly monitored. Tom had been reminded of old nightmares about cells and mazes and false exits.
"We need privacy," Janeway had said, finally. "Leave us alone, or we'll go back to our ship and leave you alone."
But they had not been left alone. They had been left with each other. In a small, windowless room containing one bed and precious little else. No doubt it was under surveillance in some way, but at least there had been no constantly-activated one-way viewscreen, no hourly interruptions by scanner-wielding guards.
They had sat on the narrow bed as if it were a couch, leaning their backs against the wall, unwilling to lie down. Tom had resisted sleep, had been sharply and uncomfortably aware of the Captain's nearness. He could feel her body heat, could see the swell of her breasts under her uniform.
Someone had moved first. One of them. Him, her. He didn't remember. What he did remember was his mouth covering hers, his fingers circling her breast, her hands tugging, fiercely, on his trousers.
There had been no sense of reality, no past or future, no B'Elanna, no rank, no Starfleet, no Voyager. Just a room, a bed, and a woman he had wanted for a long time.
She had taken him into her without a sound, and they had moved together in total silence. He had come, hard, also without a sound.
Tom closed his eyes, blocking out the sunlight, his father, the restaurant. Earth. He closed his eyes, only to see flashes of that night. The glistening trail that his tongue left on the Captain's pale throat. The tip of his cock emerging from his shorts. The few grey strands in Janeway's hair catching the light as she bent her head to his groin. The loose weave of the alien bed covering.
The Captain, her neck arched, her legs open to his stroking hand.
When she came, she had hugged him close, and yet he knew that when they returned to the ship, they would walk away from each other as if this night had never happened.
Except that they hadn't.
They had had other meetings, other couplings. Never planned, always unexpected. In the conference room or at some Neelix-invented occasion, the heat would suddenly flash between them. All at once, there would be no air, no space, only heat.
Kathryn would lift her eyes slowly to his, and at the first opportunity, they would stumble to whatever empty room they could find. Some place, any place. The door would scarcely shut before she would be on her knees in front of him. Or he would be pressing her to the floor. And they would be connecting. Urgently. Hotly. Wordlessly. Always wordlessly.
He would come more powerfully than he ever thought possible. For a moment, nothing would exist except the force of that silent release.
Tom became aware of a hand on his shoulder. If he kept his eyes shut, he thought, it would be a small hand, with long, slender fingers.
But his eyes opened. The fingers were large and male and belonged to the man whose voice was now booming in Tom's ear.
"Toasting the conquering hero, eh, Owen?"
It was another admiral, Tom saw. Someone he knew. Or should.
"Amazing story you've been a part of, Lieutenant. Amazing. You'll be a commander when the next promotion list comes out, mark my words."
"Thank you, sir," said Tom, wanting his drink. Wanting this man to go away.
"You don't mind if I steal your father to talk a bit of business, do you, Lieutenant?"
"Not at all, sir," Tom replied. Perhaps a little more loudly than he needed to.
The hand left his shoulder. Owen stood, scattering the beam of sunlight. Then the two men were gone.
Motes were dancing in the beam now. Tom stared at them, trying to follow the path of a single one. But he couldn't. They twisted, one becoming another, flashing, dimming. Bisecting the sunbeam with golden lines. Trails. Trajectories. Specks on their way home.
Tom exhaled, making the motes spin wildly. "That's right, you bastards," he muttered. "Off your damn course, aren't you?"
He tipped back the last of his drink. Liquid sunshine. Hot. Merciless. Like the memories he'd hoped the scotch would divert.
But it hadn't. His thoughts were going to run their course. Eventually. Inevitably. Like the motes. Like Voyager. Like Kathryn through his life.
The sounds of the restaurant merged into the familiar sounds of Voyager's bridge. The voices became those of Harry, Tuvok.
Kathryn. On the day that would mark their last time together. Not that he had known. Not then. He had been on edge, they all were. They had been in a race. A shuttle race with aliens. It had seemed important at the time. Janeway's eyes had met his over the helm.
"Bring your flight plans to my quarters this evening, Mr. Paris," she had said. "We need to discuss strategies."
"Aye, Captain," Tom had answered, not daring to look at Tuvok, not wanting to know if the Vulcan could feel the heat, if he could smell the sex that Tom knew must be burning around them.
He had gone to her. Of course he had. Dutifully carrying a PADD, in case anyone was watching -- a PADD he dropped as soon as he entered her quarters. She was waiting just inside the door, and he had pulled her to him, burying his face in her hair as he pushed her robe off her shoulders.
The couch, its fabric rough against his knees. Kathryn, her body slick against his. He had raised his head to look at her. She had been beautiful.
And then she had ended it. Had wrapped her robe around her and spoken for the first time that night.
"We won't do this again, Tom."
"You mean here? In your quarters?"
"I mean anywhere."
He felt cold then. Was suddenly shaking with cold. "You can end it? Just like that?"
Knowing, as he asked them, that they were stupid questions. Of course she could.
"Why?" he had demanded. "Why? Damn it, tell me why."
His hands, tight on her shoulders. Bruising her.
His voice, shouting at her. Shouting about guilt and love, betrayal and hope. Shouting about Ransom and Seven and Kashyk. About B'Elanna. About Chakotay.
Shouting. Wanting her to be angry back, so that he could fight her. Wanting her to pull rank, so that he could despise her. Wanting her.
But she had merely looked at him. Touched her hand to his face, traced his cheek. Walked into her bedroom without another word.
He had flown in the shuttle race the next day. Had given himself over to the speed, the motion, the distance. B'Elanna had been with him, prickly and familiar and somehow uncomplicated. It had been like a comic book or a Captain Proton episode, complete with sidekicks and evil aliens, warp-core breaches and "mushy stuff." In the enclosed little world of the Delta Flyer, he had talked to B'Elanna. Had said all sorts of things.
"You're important to me," he said. "I want to be the guy you're in love with," he said.
"Marry me," he said.
The Captain had performed the ceremony.
"Ready to go, son?" His father and the other admiral were back.
Tom opened his eyes, blinked. The sunlight had shifted, the beam now bright on the floor.
"Good to see you, Lieutenant," said the admiral. "Give my regards to your captain when you get a chance."
"He'll have that chance soon, I hope," Owen replied. "Tom, how about asking Kathryn to join us for lunch next week?"
Tom stood up. Slowly, carefully. "Sure," he said. "Lunch."