TITLE: Delta Quadrant Pickup
PART: 1 of 4
AUTHOR: ReAnne Moreau
E-MAIL: reann@aol.com
SERIES: Voyager
PAIRING: J/P of course :-)
ARCHIVE: any place as long as you leave my name on it. Geordi, this
includes Jupiter station.
SUMMARY: Tom Paris gets a surprise when he goes to a singles bar.

Warning: Part 2 will be NC-17, so any
minors can just stop reading at the end of part 1. The second part contains
very little plot development, so you won't miss much ;-)

My word processor has pretty much laid down and died, so sorry if there are any
glaring spelling errors and formatting problems. Have to reinstall the &%^$%

Loud music thumped rhythmically in the background, almost drowned out by the
cacophony of voices. There was barely enough light to see that nearly every
table was taken and people swarmed around the bar. Tom Paris wondered what the
hell he was doing here.

A light rain had begun to fall outside, the clouds obscuring this world's
twin moons. He could have claimed that he only ducked in here to get out of the
rain, but that would have been only part of the truth. This planet may have
been half a galaxy away from Earth, but he knew a pickup bar when he saw one.
They all had the same smell of alcohol and desperation. Falling easily back
into his old patterns, he scanned the room for someone interesting.

For a moment the crowd parted and he caught a glimpse of her face. Tom stood
rooted to the spot. \\What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?\\
He made his way closer to the table where Kathryn Janeway sat talking to a man.
He was standard bipedal stock, middle aged, rather distinguished looking. Tom
had him pegged as married already. Or maybe a serial killer. Whatever he
was, he wasn't good enough for her, certainly wasn't fit to put his hand on
her knee like that.

It was the look on Kathryn's face that worried him. She had been looking
like a woman at the end of her rope for quite a while now. Even in the middle
of his own personal disaster with B'Elanna he had recognized that and ached to
help. Here she was smiling at the serial killer, sitting close and letting him
rest his hand on her knee, but Tom easily saw through the flirtation. She
could light up the entire room with a genuine smile. This was a small tight
grin. She was scared, not sure if she could go through with
it. Her eyes were empty.

Kathryn took another drink from her glass. Maybe if she got drunk enough
she could get through this night. Temek seemed like a nice man, even reminded
her a little of Mark with his prematurely gray hair and intelligent face. Maybe
if she closed her eyes. No, it wouldn't be Mark's face she saw. No
amount of alcohol could change that.

\\I must be insane. How did I get myself into this?\\ She knew perfectly
well how she came to be here, offering herself to a stranger. She had paced her
quarters for hours, until the lonely silence became unbearable. With all the
courage of a warrior going into battle Kathryn dressed for the evening.
Nothing flashy, just a dress in bronze silk with buttons up the front, hair
twisted into an elegant knot at the back of her head. She told herself that she
just wanted to be around people and lights and noise.

Temek was suggesting that they go back to his place. At least he didn't
offer to show her his etchings. Kathryn put her glass down firmly. She was on
the verge of the silly stage of drunkenness; probably the best frame of mind for
what she had planned.

"There you are, sweetheart. I've been looking all over for you."

Kathryn whirled around to find Tom Paris standing behind her chair, a
worried expression pasted on his face. Temek started to stand up, looking
annoyed. Tom ignored him and continued speaking to his startled captain.

"I know I promised not to interfere with your private time, but the kids
miss you." Tom was looking at her with an expression of absolute sincerity.

The captain had reached for her drink again and nearly choked on his last
remark. Her erstwhile conquest stood blinking in confusion. "Kids? She never
said ..."

"Stay out of it; this is a family matter," Tom snapped at the stranger
before fixing Kathryn with a pitiful look. "If you won't come home, at least be
careful. Remember what happened last time - not that I don't love little Harry,
antlers and all." The pitiful look of adoration on Tom's face was too much.
Kathryn dropped her head into her hands.

Her erstwhile conquest scampered off, stammering an apology about a
forgotten appointment. Tom dropped into his vacant seat. He eyed the captain,
not sure just how much trouble he had gotten himself into.

Kathryn peeked between her fingers to make sure poor Temek was gone. All
she could see were Tom's worried blue eyes and that cat-on-a-canary-diet grin.
\\*Antlers?* I should throw him back in the brig.\\ Surprisingly, she felt
relieved. Propping her chin in one hand, she let one corner of her mouth
quirk up to let him know she wasn't going to kill him - yet.

"Why the hell did you do that?"

"I didn't like the look of him. He had shifty eyes." \\He had his hand on
your knee.\\ Tom shifted in his chair; she was just sitting there staring at
him. "Captain?"

"Oh, I think we can dispense with the formalities, Tom. Considering that
you've been kind enough to raise my bastard children." This time both corners
of her mouth curved up.

He looked surprised. Did she really want him to call her by her first name?
Only one other person on Voyager did that. "Kathryn?" He rolled the word
around in his head, liking the sound of it and the soft light in her eyes when
he said it. He didn't quite realize that he'd laid his hand on her arm.

"Kathryn, what are you doing in a place like this?"

"The same thing you are, I imagine." She flushed a delicate shade of pink;
this was an awkward situation for both of them. "You knew I didn't really want
to go with him."

"And that you'd be stubborn enough to go through with it anyway," he

Kathryn closed her eyes as a feeling of warmth spread through her heart. He
knew her so well.

It was remarkable how well they understood each other, particularly each
other's obsessions. As angry and hurt as she had been, she knew why he had
risked everything gained in the last five years to save the Monean world. And
Tom had shown that he understood why she needed to bring in the renegade
officers of the Equinox. The captain suspected that he also knew her
pain as she hardened her heart to everything but duty in an effort to survive
their journey.

She opened her eyes, blinking away the threat of tears. Her hand briefly
rested on his. "Thank you Tom."

The din of their surroundings finally caught her attention and she shook her
head. "You don't need to babysit me any more. After all, you didn't come here
to be stuck with your captain all evening.." If there was anything insincere in
her words, it didn't show.

Tom surveyed his surroundings, surprised at how little the place appealed to
him. He gave Kathryn a rueful look. "I don't have the heart for this kind of
stuff anymore," he acknowledged with a grin. "You don't know how old and
pathetic that makes me feel."

"So what are a couple pathetic old codgers like ourselves going to do for
the rest of the evening?"

She propped her chin in her hand, giving Tom a sweet, mellow smile, a glint
of mischief in her eyes. That was the look that had made him follow her from New
Zealand. He would do just about anything to get her to look at him like that.

Tom copied her gesture, which coincidentally put his face only a few inches
from Kathryn's. "I heard about a place not far from here that has a great band.
Do you want to try some of the local dance steps?"

"I'll try anything once," she purred.

Tom tried not to choke. Damn, he'd forgotten how good she was at flirting.

They spent a few more minutes lingering over drinks and speculating about
the other patrons of the bar. Kathryn proved to have a wicked ability to make up
dialogue between the people at the other tables. Tom silently thanked whatever
deity watched over lonely pilots for bringing him to her tonight.

Returning from a trip to the bathroom, he watched Kathryn shoo away a
beautiful brunette who shot daggers at him with her eyes. He stood with arms
folded, looking sternly at his captain. "I can't leave you alone for a minute.
What would the kids think?"

Kathryn hoped he couldn't see her blush in the low light. "She was worried
that you were being coercive. You *did* come on pretty strong with Temek."

"And she was offering her protection?" The idea of Kathryn Janeway being
physically intimidated by anyone brought a grin to his face. Sometimes she
seemed not to realize that she wasn't seven feet tall and made of steel.
"C'mon, let's get out of here before you start a riot."

Kathryn had to admit that she was flattered by the amount of attention she
had gotten tonight. Most flattering of all was the way a certain pilot had
never even glanced at another woman since he sat down at her table.

They haggled briefly over who would pay the tab. Tom won, moving over to
the bar to settle up. The barkeep took his thumb print with one tentacle while
never spilling a drop of the beverage she was pouring with two others. Her
eyestalks bobbed appreciatively. If he'd had a few more tentacles she
could have gone for him herself.

"Good work stranger; that one was the prize of the evening." She looked him up
and down. "You move fast. Care to come back tomorrow night and make a little
wager on whether you can beat your own time?"

Tom flicked a look at Kathryn standing by the door. She looked up as if she
felt his eyes on her. "No thanks; I like this one. I think I'll keep her."