Double Jeopardy
Part Thirteen

 

"Well, looks like you made a nice friend, Tom. Won't daddy be pleased you finally managed to fool someone into thinking you're a *normal* person," Cavit mocked.

Tom flinched, more because of Cavitís words than the fact that the First Officer was busily discarding both of their uniforms onto the floor. He couldnít believe that Harry had said it, actually called him his "friend". Well, maybe not directly but surely thatís what he had meant when he said no one chose his friends for him. Considering the fact that Harry had been told the so-called "truth" about Caldik Prime, it stunned Tom that he had even been willing to sit at the same dinner table with him.

He didn't want to discuss Harry with Cavit. He wanted to keep the image of Harry's innocent smile separate from the filth that was his life. Maybe Harry would actually miss him when he left. It was a nice thought that *someone* might be sorry when Dukat killed him.

"Why donít you shut up and fuck me," he drawled at Cavit.

It was bad enough that his body was going to be abused. He didnít want the wonderful, sparkling memory of Harryís unexpected kindness sullied by Cavitís cruel mockery. The sooner the First Officer got down to business, the faster Tom could get out of his quarters and concentrate on the unique feeling of being someone's 'friend'.

"Oh yeah, must be a whole 12 hours since someone fucked you, huh? A slut like you must be suffering from withdrawal symptoms already," Cavit sniggered.

Tom flushed. His skin was already crawling at the thought of what was about to happen to him. Heíd seen *that* look in enough eyes to understand that it wasnít going to simply be a case of bend over and spread Ďem. He never really minded the straight forward rapes. He was years past the capacity to feel humiliation at the thought of being used sexually by another man. At the age of sixteen he had learnt that his body belonged to the Admiral and it was irrelevant how he himself felt about those who used him.

What terrified him most about Cavit was the fact that he knew how to push Tomís buttons. He knew exactly how Tom had been modified and would enjoy making Tom participate in his own rape.

His fears were confirmed when Cavit opened a drawer and retrieved a kit-bag which he unzipped to reveal a multitude of all-too-familiar objects.

"When your daddy told me you were coming along, I made sure I brought a few toys to keep you occupied, Tom. Wasnít that thoughtful of me?" Cavit smirked.

Tom just looked at the contents of the bag in dull despair.

Cavit slapped him viciously across the face. "Answer me, slut!"

"Yes Sir," Tom whispered, his eyes now wide with fear but his cock had jumped in response to Cavitís slap and the reaction hadn't gone unnoticed.

"You liked that, didnít you?" Cavit purred.

 "Yes Sir," Tom choked miserably.

Cavit selected a wide leather paddle from his bag, its surface peppered with holes to cut wind resistance, and sat on the edge of the bed, patting his lap.

"Donít keep me waiting," he warned, when Tom just gazed at him helplessly.

Tom shuddered but silently draped himself over the older manís lap. He jumped when he felt Cavitís hands caress his ass cheeks, tracing the line of the Ďtattooí.

"I thought you healed without scars," Cavit challenged, confusion evident in his voice.

"Dukat deliberately had Aurooja oil put on the cuts," Tom muttered. "He wanted the mark to be permanent."

"Ah," Cavit replied. "He obviously liked the pattern then."

"Yes, Sir," Tom replied quietly.

"Okay, letís start this. What do you say, Tom?"

Tomís eyes filled with tears but his voice was steady as he gave the reply that he knew Cavit was expecting.

"Please, Sir. Please paddle my ass," he asked.

Cavit grinned. The Admiral had assured him that Tomís conditioning had held, despite his time at Auckland, and it certainly seemed that he was right. If Tom had given the wrong answer, he was under instructions to ensure that Tom didnít survive his Ďescapeí attempt with Seska. The Admiral wanted Tom back in Dukatís hands and had no illusions about whether Tom would survive the experience. That wasnít the risk. The worry was that if Tomís conditioning had broken down, he might tell Dukat things during his torture that the FIA couldnít afford to reveal.

Cavitís placement on Voyager was merely to test Tomís obedience. Fortunately, for Tom *and* himself, Tom seemed as well-conditioned as the night Cavit and another FIA Agent had collected him from the Academy and shattered his body to leave him in the shuttle at Caldik Prime. Cavit was relieved he wouldnít have to pull the trigger on Tom himself. Terminations were always a messy business. Besides, a couple of weeks of having a Mod in his hands to enjoy was like a wet dream come to life.

In Cavit's opinion, there was nothing in the universe more sexually responsive than a Mod in pain-induced lust mode. All he had to do was inflict enough pain for Tom's neural synapses to overload and the blond would turn into an insatiable sex-craved animal, and Cavit knew *exactly* how to achieve an overload in a Mod. He'd experimented enough back at the hospital.

He'd never been allowed to play with the Admiral's own son before, except at Caldik Prime when Tom's pain had been for a completely different agenda. He was looking forward to checking whether Tom's modifications were as pleasing as the other boys. The rumor at the hospital was that Tom's modifications had taken the whole program a step further because of the extreme physical hazards of his posting to Gul Dukat. Cavit was eager to experience Tom's 'fine-tuning' for himself.

He wasn't worried about being found out. Tom would never tell what he did to him and he had told the computer to activate a sound dampener on his room so no-one would hear Tom scream. The only people who might interfere anyway were that stupid new Ensign Kim and Captain Janeway.

Even so, despite the fact that Janeway was supposedly a SCC spy and seemed surprisingly interested in Tom Parisís welfare, Cavit knew that Tomís body could take any amount of abuse and survive. As long as he was careful not to mark Tomís face, no-one would ever know about their evening activities together.

The first slap of the paddle made Tom jump in shock. It had been a long time since he had felt that particular sensation. The second blow sent a jolt of excitement into his cock and he felt it stiffen and press against the inside of Cavitís knees.

He sobbed in a combination of pain and shame at the way his body was immediately reacting to Cavit's abuse. As he had expected, Cavit seemed intent on releasing the whore that lurked inside his body and Tom began to mentally detach himself from his own reactions. As much as he hated being a witness to his own degradation, somehow the act of stepping outside of himself and simply allowing his body to perform of its own volition kept the *real* Tom sane.

"Donít cum," Cavit hissed in warning as he struck a sharp blow against the tender skin where Tomís buttocks met his thighs.

"No, Sir," Tom sobbed. He remembered *this* sadistic game far too well.

Cavit continued his slow, heavy blows until Tomís ass was bruised an even dark pink. The blond was weeping openly now between strikes and the heat rising off his ass was making Cavitís own cock dribble pre-cum in excitement at the thought of descending into the hot inferno that resided between the glowing cheeks.

He dropped the paddle and chose a small flat-ended crop instead. He lashed six hard blows across the flaming skin of Tomís butt and then pushed Tomís legs wide so that he could whip vertically down the length of Tomís crack. The intense pain of the first blow made Tom jerk off his lap. So he waited for Tom to settle back into submission and then deepened the next blow so that he struck Tomís scrotum on the down stroke.

Tom gave a howl that could have woken the dead and scrambled off Cavit's lap. For a moment Cavit thought Tom was going to run, but instead Tom dropped to the floor on his hands and knees, wriggling his ass expectantly. When Cavit failed to respond immediately to the invitation, Tom turned his head over his shoulder and blazed Cavit with a look of complete wanton lust.

Cavit swallowed dryly. Tom's eyes had gone so dark they looked almost inhuman and his teeth were bared like a snarling dog's. Cavit had the feeling that if he didn't take Paris quickly, the blond would leap up and savage him.

He didn't wait to find out.  He quickly snapped a cock ring over his hungry erection and positioned himself behind Tom's ass. He waited for Tom's sphincter to visibly relax and open in invitation and then plunged into the younger man's depths. It was only when Tom howled once again that he remembered that he had forgotten the lube, but then Tom was rocking back, fucking himself on his cock and Cavit surrendered to the sensation of being milked dry by the little slut.

~~~

Kathryn waited until all the crew reported for duty, supervised the launch from Deep Space Nine, made a quick call home to check that her lover, Mark, had collected her bitch who was due to whelp any day soon, and then decided it was time to check out what her quarters looked like.

She was pleasantly surprised by the size of the room but irritated by the sounds of what she could only interpret as sexual activity coming from the room of her First Officer next door. Damn, she had disliked Cavit on sight but had put a large part of her feelings down to pique that she hadn't been allowed the courtesy of choosing her own First Officer.

Now, she had a feeling that her gut instinct had been right. She wasn't a prude and had no objection in principle to sexual relationships between crew members, but for her First Officer to be busily fucking a subordinate only two hours after they had left DS9 boded ill for ship's discipline.

She didn't know who the other crewmember was, but she was damned if she would allow Cavit to play favorites. Of course, the other scenario, that Cavit was a Lothario who was going to fuck a swathe through the whole crew, was even worse. She would have to have words with the man in the morning.

"Computer, apply sound dampeners," she snapped.

Nothing happened. The sounds of grunts and moans through the wall continued.

She called the bridge, and was informed that the "prototype" ship still had a few software kinks that were being sorted out. One of them obviously being the sound dampeners.

She didn't want to play the heavy by banging on the wall. Maybe she would take a stroll around the ship, perhaps check that Tom Paris was settling in alright. She had been pleased that Ensign Kim had accepted Tom on face value. Spy or not, Tom was a sad and lonely person in her opinion. Maybe a friend was all he had ever needed to learn the value of honesty and integrity. She had checked Kim's files and found out that he had been an exemplary student at the Academy. Perhaps some of his intrinsic goodness would rub off on Paris.

Of course, she would have to keep a close eye on the pair to ensure that Tom Paris's less desirable traits didn't rub off on Harry Kim. She had checked Harry's psych evaluation and had discovered that although Kim was a well-adjusted person with no undesirable hang-ups about sexual proclivities, he himself was judged to be fully heterosexual. It had put her mind at ease about his interest in Tom. Harry Kim genuinely seemed to want to *only* be Tom's friend, and that pleased her.

Although it was going to be a problem if Tom *did* have to be terminated.

She was just leaving her quarters, with a last look of disgust at the wall that separated her quarters from Cavit's when a howl of undisputable agony punctuated the noises of sexual gratification.

Kathryn didn't stop to think. She pulled the phaser from her belt, ran to Cavit's door and overrode his privacy locks. As the door opened, she almost dropped her phaser in complete horror. Her training took over and she didn't even wait for an explanation. She shot Cavit in the back with a stun setting before he even had the chance to turn around and identify her.

There was blood everywhere and the majority of it seemed to be coming out of the torn skin on Tom's ass and the ripped hole in the middle of it.

"Computer, Medic-" she began, only to cut herself off mid-sentence. Despite the blood loss, Tom didn't seem to be in pain at all. On the contrary, he had spun around when she had shot Cavit to reveal a proudly jutting cock. His eyes were dilated with lust and his breath was coming in sharp gasps as though he was trying desperately to control himself.

There was a dark bruise on the side of his flushed face, and it was this, more than anything else that had arrested her call for an emergency transport to sickbay. Before her eyes, as the flush was receding, so was the bruise. It was fading away. Just as, as soon as Cavit had stopped reaming the blond, the blood had stopped dripping to the floor from his ass.

"Stand up and turn around," she said calmly.

The wild look faded from Tom's eyes, to be replaced by a look of cautious relief as though he wanted to believe he had been rescued but suspected that he had just had a change of torturers. He rose gracefully to his feet, obviously unhampered by his injuries and turned so that his back was towards her.

Kathryn saw shivers of tension running down his spine, but her eyes were far more interested in the bruised and ripped flesh of his buttocks.

He'd stopped bleeding and the welts were beginning to fade. The skin was knitting together so slowly that Kathryn was sure that it would take hours for them to disappear completely. Nevertheless, the injuries should have been evident for days.

Tom Paris *was* a Mod. There was no other explanation for his healing powers. More to the point, Cavit had obviously *known* that he was, and that meant Cavit was FIA.

"Get dressed, Tom," Kathryn said softly.

He spun around and looked at her in disbelief. She was relieved to see that his erection had left him, as had his look of wanton lust. Now all he looked like was a beaten puppy who wasn't sure whether to wag his tail at her or hide under the bed.

"I gave you an order, Tom," she snapped. She wasn't angry with him, if anything she had an insane urge to hug this young man whose own father had turned him into a creature that Federation Law said should be put down on sight. She was far too aware of the magnitude of her discovery though. If Cavit was FIA, then her whole mission was possibly a set-up.

Tom Paris was the key to the mystery, and if she played her cards right, maybe she could uncover the whole can of worms without even entering the badlands after Chakotay.

She waited until Tom had straightened himself up then told him to dress Cavit. Once the First Officer was decently clothed she called Security and told them to put Cavit in the brig. She would deal with him *after* she knew what was going on. In the meantime, though, she just needed to be sure that he couldn't alert the FIA that she was on to him.

"Sit down," she told Tom, deciding that the young man would be more unbalanced here than in her ready room. She needed to play a very clever game here to get to the bottom of things and didn't want to give Tom time to restore his own composure.

"Youíre a Mod," Kathryn said bluntly, once he was seated.

"Didnít the Admiral tell you that?" Tom asked, in confusion.

Kathrynís eyes narrowed, particularly at the way Tom called his own father the ĎAdmiralí. So Tom *was* a Mod but why did he think she knew? Of course, her first words to him had been "Your father sent me". Tom thought *she* was an FIA operative. Excitement filled her. If she was careful, and played the game well, she might finally manage to get to the bottom of the FIA conspiracy.

"Of course he did, but I thought he was joking," she said casually. "Since you *are* his son."

Tom dropped his head and mumbled.

"What?" she demanded.

"Thatís why," he whispered. "He said he only had me so that he could use me."

"Of course," Kathryn replied, despite the bile that rose in her throat at Tomís words.

"I donít understand why you stopped Cavit," Tom mumbled. "Am I yours? Is that why? I'm sorry if I am. I didn't know. I didn't mean to be disobedient. Are you going to punish me?"

Kathryn's stomach churned at the helpless way Tom asked the question. There was something almost innocent about Tom's query. She began to wonder exactly what "conditioning" Will had been talking about.

"My orders are to deliver you unharmed," Kathryn lied smoothly.

Tom looked at her in complete disbelief for a moment, his brow furrowed in thought and then a look of understanding dawned.

"You mean in case Dukat gets pissed off at the thought that someone else had me?"

Dukat? What the hell is going on here? Kathryn thought. Her face showed no trace of her confusion though and unable to think of an answer that wouldnít reveal her ignorance, she merely gave a casual shrug.

"Shit, heís gonna kill me anyway. I donít think the fact my ass isnít torn up will make any difference," Tom admitted. "Not that I wouldnít prefer a few days of peace first," he added quickly, but before she could answer, a frightened look crossed his face, "Not that it matters what I want. Iím sorry, Maíam. I know better than to have said that. I swear I wonít disobey you."

"You'd better not," Kathryn said, stalling for time.

"Will you tell the Admiral I was bad?" Tom asked fearfully.

"Only if you disobey me now that you know that you belong to me," Kathryn replied.

She felt sick as Tom gave her a sunny smile of obvious relief. She had done a few things in her time that had sickened her but none of them had felt as wrong as this. What she *wanted* to do was tell Tom that she was SCC, that he was safe with her, that she would protect him from the monsters that had apparently turned him into a living sexual plaything and a presumably unwilling spy. She couldn't. Not only was she unable to jeopardize her own people by admitting her own allegiances to an admitted spy, she also knew that the SCC's only suggestion for dealing with creatures like Tom was euthanasia.

She had a job to do, and although using Tom made her feel no better than an FIA operative herself it was also the best shot she had at unraveling his father's machinations. The first thing she needed to do was to get to the bottom of Tom's reference to Gul Dukat. If she could prove that Admiral Paris was deliberately escalating the Federation into war, she might be able to save billions of lives.

As Will had said, it was a numbers game after all.

"Dukat might not kill you," Kathryn suggested, fishing desperately.

"He knows who I am now. He knows I was a plant. Of course heíll kill me. The Admiral knows that too. Thatís what the bug is for. Apparently people tell their darkest secrets when they are torturing someone to death. The Admiral will retrieve the data after my body gets sent home," Tom said calmly.

Kathryn's heart lurched at the casual way Tom was discussing his own planned demise. Either Tom was incapable of thinking for himself anymore, and she didn't believe that because she had seen the pain in his blue eyes, or he was simply past the point of even hoping that he had any control over his own life or death. How the hell could anyone, even a megalomaniac like Owen Paris have done this to his own son?

But "You donít sound concerned," was all that Kathryn said.

Tom shrugged and gave a wry smile.

"Well, itíll be over, wonít it? Iím kind of looking forward to it, to be honest. Anyway, I will probably enjoy it. Thatís what the mods were for, isnít it? So Iíd think being skinned alive is an erotic experience."

"The Admiral was furious when you were caught with the Maquis," Kathryn said, desperate to change the subject before she threw up.

"It wasnít *my* fault. Tuvok knows that. He was there on Terrik Nor. He knows that Dukat made me join Chakotayís ship. I couldnít have said no. He didnít even fucking need me on board the Crazy Horse. Heís got Seska there to spy for him. He didnít need me," Tom complained.

"Ah, yes. Dukatís *other* spy, Seska," Kathryn said, as though she wasnít simply making up her responses as she went along.

"She looks so much like a Bajoran itís frightening," Tom confided. "Her modifications make mine look like childís play. Sheís Cardassian through and through though. Chakotay didnít stand a chance. He already had a Cardassian Spy and an FIA spy on board, and then the poor bastard had me thrown into the pot too."

'Poor bastard'? Kathryn repeated to herself silently. Was it possible that Tom really *had* developed feelings for Chakotay? She was ashamed that her first response to that hope was that if it was true then maybe Tom could be turned to her side.

"Heís the enemy, Tom," was what she snapped though, keeping to her role.

Tom flinched.

"Yeah, I know," he mumbled.

"Thatís why the Admiral was really pissed with you, you know," Kathryn lied. "Chakotay."

Tom trembled with fear.

"Is, is that why weíre doing this?" he whispered. "Are we here to kill *him* really?"

"You know why weíre here," Kathryn replied, hoping it was true and that he would tell her.

Tom shook his head sullenly.

"No I donít. I only know what I was told. No one ever bothers telling me the truth, anyway. I donít know why they lie though. Itís not as if I have any choice, is it? OnlyÖ."

"Only what?"

"Well, Iíd like to know the truth. I mean Iíll do what Iím told, Maíam, I always do. You know I do. And I know it doesnít matter what I want, but even so, it would be nice to know, wouldnít it?"

"Know what?" Kathryn asked desperately.

"What happens after Seska and I do our Ďescapeí to Cardassia. What happens to Chakotay?"

"What do you think is going to happen?" Kathryn asked with studied casualness.

"I guess you arrest him and then Tuvok miraculously escapes with the Crazy Horse so he can carry on working for the Admiral," Tom muttered.

Jackpot. She had it all. The reason Tom was on board. The identity of the Cardassian spy. She even had the name of Owenís operative on board the Crazy Horse.

"Well?" Tom asked nervously.

"Why do you care?" Kathryn snapped. "Heís the one who broke your cover isnít he? The Admiral wasnít pleased with that, despite your usefulness in Auckland."

Tom cringed and his eyes glittered with something that looked suspiciously like tears to Kathryn.

"I got confused," Tom whimpered. "I didn't mean to do it."

"Didn't mean to do what?"

"I couldn't help it, Ma'am," Tom sniffled. "Please don't tell the Admiral."

"Couldn't help what?"

"No one was ever nice to me before," Tom mumbled. "I didn't know how to deal with it. No one ever touched me like that, like they cared how I felt. He said he loved me. No body ever said that to me before."

"You fell in love with Chakotay," Kathryn said quietly.

Tom's eyes flashed with fear.

"I wasn't really trying to leave. I wouldn't have gone with him. It was only a daydream. Just a dream. That's all. Please believe me," Tom begged in obvious terror.

"You're saying you wanted to, but you wouldn't have done it?" Kathryn asked, keeping her face a mask of indifference. "I think you are lying to me, Tom."

Tom flinched and hugged himself in misery.

"I want the truth, and I want it now, or you *will* regret it," Kathryn snapped.

For the first time, an emotion other than fear or lust flashed over Tom's features. Anger. Genuine anger.

"Fuck it. I'm dead anyway, aren't I?" Tom hissed bitterly. "Why the hell should I care what the Admiral thinks. I'm going to Cardassia to die. That's enough, isn't it? What the fuck more can I do? Why the fuck should I lie about it? You can't kill me yourself and nothing you can do to me will hurt me anymore than Dukat is going to."

"So tell me the truth, if you've got the balls," Kathryn snarled back.

"I loved him. I would have followed him anywhere. I would have said fuck you and the FIA and the Admiral. I would have done *anything* for him," Tom yelled. "Now he knows what I am and he hates me. I knew he would. I knew he'd find out and hate me. I just wanted some time with him. Some good memories. I got one night, one fucking lousy night and then he found out and beat the shit out of me and handed me over to Starfleet."

"You hate him for that, don't you?" Kathryn asked.

"I hate me. I hate you for doing this to me and me for not having had the guts to slit my wrists when I knew what you'd done," Tom replied. "I'm not helping you find Chakotay because I hate him. I just want to get back to Dukat so I can finally find some peace."

"By dying," Kathryn asked sadly.

Tom just gave a shrug.

"Why haven't you just killed yourself already?" Kathryn couldn't stop herself asking.

"The money," Tom whispered.

"Money?" Kathryn asked in complete confusion.

"He said it nearly bankrupted him for my modifications. He said the least I owed him was to finally give him his money's worth by recording Dukat's plans," Tom admitted.

"The Admiral actually said that to you?" Kathryn demanded.

"Well, his lawyer told me," Tom clarified. "He said if I did this, the Admiral would forgive me for all my previous fuck-ups."

"And that's important to you?" Kathryn asked.

"I know no-one loves me," Tom said slowly. "Even Chakotay hates me now. I understand that. It's hard though. Dying alone. Knowing no-one even cares. It's kind of better knowing at least that the Admiral doesn't hate me though. It's the best I can hope for. That he won't care that I'm dead, but at least he won't always remember me as a complete fuck-up."

"So you are intending to complete your mission?"

"Yes, Ma'am. I swear I won't let you down," Tom promised sadly.

"There are a number of factors that you are not aware of Tom. You will *not* make any attempt to leave with Seska without running your plans via me first," Kathryn snapped.

"Of course not, Ma'am. I understand that you are in charge of the mission," Tom said humbly.

"I think you had better return to your quarters before anyone becomes suspicious," Kathryn told him.

"Yes Ma'am," Tom said, pulling himself slowly to his feet.

"Captain," Kathryn said.

"What Ma'am?"

"I prefer to be called, Captain," Kathryn said mildly.

"Yes, Ma'am, Captain Ma'am," Tom muttered and fled from Cavit's quarters.

~~~

"What the hell am I going to do, Jean-Luc?" Kathryn asked.

The connection was poor and Picard's image was flickering on her secure channel but his voice was comfortingly strong.

"I agree with your assessment of Tom Paris. He seems to be a clear victim in this. His Father's treatment of him is abominable and the fact that he has admitted he had an urge to run away with Chakotay suggests that his conditioning is not as unbreakable as we had suspected. I am going to suggest to the SCC that Tom is going to be an invaluable witness in his Father's trial which will keep him alive for the moment. These things have a tendency to go on for months, Kath. That will give us time to find a way to reverse his modifications."

"What if they are irreversible?"

"Then we find a legal precedent to save his life. I have argued and won tougher cases, Kathryn. I can surely save the life of one young man whose life has been so unbearable that he'd rather be tortured to death than continue living. Perhaps it *would* be a good idea to hand him over to Chakotay. He's a good man, Kath, one of the best. Once you explain things to him, I am sure he will fight for Tom tooth and nail."

"So you still want me to rendezvous with Chakotay?"

"This 'Tuvok' isn't just a minor player. He's a Vulcan, Kath. I've run his records through the computer. He's an important man on his homeworld. He certainly isn't one of Owen's "Mods". I suspect, and hope, that he is one of Owen's inner circle. If so, he has enough information to bring Owen down. His testimony will be given far more credence than Tom's. The Cardassian spy Seska is perhaps equally important."

"Have you had any luck contacting Chakotay?"

"His ship has disappeared, Kath. The only hope we have is that Tom might know where Chakotay is likely to hole up in the Badlands. Chakotay's failure to report in suggests that he is in trouble. It's not like him to maintain radio silence for so long. Voyager is the only ship that can safely navigate through that part of space. She is small and swift enough to cope with the Badlands and her unusual design will hopefully keep the Cardassians from attacking you if they detect you near the DMZ.

"Keep Tom under the impression that you are FIA for now. Find Chakotay, bring Tuvok and Seska in, leave Tom with Chakotay and then we will discuss our next step back at HQ."

"You just want to keep Tom out of the way," Kathryn said dryly.

Jean-Luc shrugged.

"It's the only way to guarantee his safety at the moment," he admitted.

"Thank you," Kathryn murmured.

"You've really taken a shine to him, haven't you?" Jean-Luc said.

"He doesn't deserve what has happened to him, Jean-Luc. Nobody does."

"Remember that stray dogs have a tendency to bite the hand that feeds them, Kathryn. I share your pity for the lad, but he's still dangerous. Don't turn your back on him. He's as likely to knife you for your concern as thank you."

"I know," Kathryn admitted. "But I think he's worth a chance."

"Everyone is worth *one* chance, Kath," Jean-Luc agreed. "Just don't get careless and don't get dead, okay?"

"Okay," Kathryn smiled.
 

TBC