Double Jeopardy- Part Fifteen
As the three leather-clad men materialized on the bridge, weapons in hand, Kathryn had to make a snap judgment. She recognized Chakotay and the Vulcan, Tuvok, and the third man looked equally dangerous to her. Despite the undoubted air of potential violence that exuded from all three, she hastily told her bridge officers to stand down as soon as they instinctively leapt to draw their phasers.
In the flesh, Chakotay was even more impressive than he had been on screen. Although he was shorter than both of his companions, his presence dwarfed them both. There was something almost animalistic about him. He was heavy with muscle, yet held himself in a way that suggested he could move with the grace and speed of a panther. It was difficult to believe he was anything other than the Maquis renegade he purported to be. Kathryn couldn't even visualize a Starfleet Uniform stretched over his impressive frame. No wonder he was one of the most successful undercover SCC operatives. Even though she knew he was only playing a role, she still found it difficult to believe.
His dark, intelligent eyes swept almost impassively over the bridge, weighing and evidently dismissing her crew as largely irrelevant. His general contempt seemed to include her, because he barely paused as his eyes swept once down her body, then back up again so that although Kathryn felt almost assaulted by his penetrating gaze, she felt less violated than insulted by his obvious indifference to her. It was only when his eyes caught the presence of Tom Paris that his demeanor abruptly changed from almost amused contempt to a shocked near-horror.
He seemed shaken by a wave of emotion so intense that his mask of control shattered. His complexion darkened, as did his eyes, yet there was no affection in that emotion. He looked at Tom Paris with the kind of pure, unadulterated hatred that assured Kathryn that at some point Chakotay had indeed loved Tom very much. No one could hate a stranger with that much intensity.
It was a measure, perhaps, of how shaken Chakotay was that he didn't try to hide his disgust for the blond.
"What was your price *this time*, Paris," he taunted, his eyes hard as flint as they bore into the younger man. "Freedom from prison? Latinum?"
As though the rest of the bridge had ceased to exist for them, the eyes of the two men locked and held. The tension in the room was palpable and Kathryn sensed that the rest of the bridge crew were as fascinated by the unfolding drama as she was. Chakotay was poised like a cobra preparing to strike, and the wide-eyed Tom Paris seemed unable to even catch enough breath to speak.
If Kathryn had sensed the wave of hatred from Chakotay, it was nothing next to the almost visible aura of anguish that Tom projected. For a moment he looked shattered, so fragile that another harsh word might cause him to splinter into a thousand pieces like a broken crystal, and Kathryn had the distinct impression that he wouldn't even try to protect himself from Chakotay's angry fists.
Then, as Chakotay began to move, Tom finally seemed to take in Tuvok's presence. Kathryn observed him flinch with fear, as though he knew his defenseless reaction to Chakotay's rage would be frowned upon by the FIA operative. Tom quickly replaced his expression of guilty despair with that all too familiar defensive sneer, the one that had tempted even Kathryn herself to slap him at the prison, and he lunged forward to meet Chakotay's advance.
Kathryn found herself sandwiched between two men who were clearly completely out of control. She was pretty sure that Chakotay was intending to knock Tom flying, but wasn't so sure that violence was Tom's motivation. She didn't wait to find out. In her best command voice, she barked out, "You're speaking to a member of my crew, and I expect you to treat him with the same civility as you would expect me to treat any of your crew members."
As though slapped to reason by her words, Chakotay pulled himself together with a visible effort and stood down. Kathryn saw Tom almost sag with relief, although he sneered at Chakotay with apparent satisfaction and folded his arms across his chest in an attempt to look unruffled by Chakotay's obvious hatred. Deep within the blue eyes though, Kathryn saw a momentary flicker of genuine pain and her heart reached out to the much abused and misunderstood young man, even as she wished he'd drop his act of indifference and simply throw himself to the floor at Chakotay's feet and beg forgiveness.
It was possible that Tom was too hurt by the fact that it had been Chakotay himself who had orchestrated his imprisonment, but Kathryn suspected that wasn't the real reason for Tom's defensive posturing. In the short time she had known the blond, she had begun to get a real feel for what was going on in his head. He had fallen in love with Chakotay, had dared to begin trusting him, but had known all along that his own deception would inevitably cause the older man to ultimately spurn him. Tom had never believed that he was worthy of love and had never expected anything except Chakotay's hate.
Unequipped to deal with emotion, never having experienced anything except pain and betrayal from his own father, Tom didn't have the ability to convince Chakotay that his feelings were genuine. So he was dealing with Chakotay's obvious hurt in the only way he knew how. By pretending he didn't care.
Tom watched helplessly as he saw Chakotay, Janeway and the others enter the turbolift . He couldn't bear the thought of entering that tiny space. To know Chakotay hated him was already too much to cope with, without suffering his disgust first hand. Still, Tom had to find Harry. Maybe the only reason that Harry was his friend was because the Ensign was the only person who didn't know *what* Tom was, but still, he *was* his friend. Just because Harry would one day look at him with the same contempt as everyone else did, wasn't enough reason for Tom to turn his back on him.
"Captain," he called out.
To his relief she turned to him immediately.
"I want to go with you," he said.
"If this is about what Chakotay said…" she began sympathetically.
Tom shook his head. He didn't even want to think about the way Chakotay had looked at him.
"I need to know Harry's okay," he explained.
She searched his face for a moment, judging his sincerity, then sighed.
"Come on then," she said and led him into the lift.
Tom sat at the helm and tried to keep his face impassive as the events of the last few hours tumbled through his head in a series of disjointed images.
Although Chakotay had pointedly ignored him when they'd returned to the Array, he hadn't attacked him either verbally or physically. Then they had met the strange alien Neelix, had rescued the Ocampan Kes and on their return to Voyager, Janeway had given Tom control of the helm. He had been so grateful for her trust, and so relieved that Chakotay had returned to his own ship, that he'd thrown himself into his new job and had almost forgotten his own fears for a little while.
It was only later that every thing had turned to shit.
Harry was safe, he reminded himself. That was all that mattered. Harry was safe, so it didn't matter what he'd said. Hell, maybe it had been a joke. Harry had been injured, barely conscious and his words had probably just been an attempt at humor.
He'd raced up the Ocampan staircase to grab Harry and help him to the surface. He'd told Harry he couldn't have let his only friend die. And Harry had said, "What makes you think I'm your friend?"
Tom was almost sure it had been a joke, but it still hurt. He'd never had a friend before Harry and now he wasn't sure whether Harry even was his friend. Worse than that though, now the Maquis were on board, Harry would soon find out the real truth about him. So even if Harry had been joking earlier, his denial of Tom's friendship would soon be a fact.
Chakotay would make sure of that. Chakotay who had only accepted Tom's attempt to save his life in the hope that he'd have the satisfaction of seeing Tom fall to his death along side him. He hadn't even spoken to Tom after that. As soon as the EMH had mended his broken leg, Chakotay had returned to his own ship. He hadn't even told anyone what Tom had done. As far as anyone else knew, Chakotay *had* turned into a bird and flown out of the cave by himself.
Chakotay had then saved all their butts by sacrificing his ship to destroy the Kazon battle cruiser in the kind of heroic gesture that had put the whole Voyager crew in awe of his courage. Tom had seen the respectful glances being thrown Chakotay's way. He was a hero and Tom was still … well, whatever the hell it was that people always thought he was.
It wasn't that he cared what people thought of him, exactly. It was just that he felt so alone.
He couldn't imagine surviving the next twenty-four hours. If Chakotay didn't kill him, Tuvok undoubtedly would.
And now no-one, not even Harry, would give a damn.
"I agree in principle," Chakotay said bluntly. "I accept we need to combine our crews into one. Although I have complete faith that my own people could easily take over Voyager, there aren't enough crew left on either side to run a Starship alone. A certain level of co-operation between us seems the only viable option. You keep your people in line and I'll ensure that mine behave accordingly."
"You misunderstood me," Kathryn replied easily. "When I said we should merge the crews, I wasn't suggesting a democracy. This is a Starfleet ship and she'll stay that way. All I'm offering your people is the opportunity to join my crew."
Chakotay gave a bark of surprised laughter but when he finally spoke, his words were pure venom.
"We're Maquis, Captain. We're not going to willingly allow ourselves to be press-ganged, just because you've been careless enough to lose half your crew on your first mission."
Kathryn reeled with the verbal punch, but came out swinging.
"It's a hell of a long walk back to the Alpha Quadrant," she smirked.
"A point you'd do well to remember," Chakotay replied. "All your senior officers are dead. You're left with nothing more than green kids and basic crewmen who barely know what their phasers are for. How many of them have been in combat situations, Captain? How many of them even remember their hand-to-hand combat training? They wouldn't stand a chance against my people. We've spent every day of the last two years running and hiding and fighting the Cardassians. We could defeat your crew with our hands tied behind our backs."
"Probably," Kathryn admitted. "My crew are new and untested. No matter how brave they are, they don't stand a chance against seasoned fighters like your people. Which is why it's important that the Maquis accept Starfleet discipline. It's the only way my crew will be safe."
Chakotay's jaw dropped open in astonishment.
"You accept that there's no way you can stop me taking over the ship, but you still think I'll agree to hand over my crew and command to you?" he asked.
"Yes," Kathryn agreed calmly.
"And when we get home, if we get home, what then? Do my crew get a pardon or do you just expect us to hand ourselves over to Starfleet?" Chakotay laughed.
"*When* we get home, I will ensure that your crew's behavior is shown in evidence at their trial," Kathryn replied. "The amount of leniency they may expect will probably depend on how co-operative they are now."
"You're mad if you think that we'll agree," Chakotay replied dismissively.
"It's a good offer, Chakotay. If we hadn't been taken by the Caretaker, your crew would already be kicking their heels in a Federation prison with nothing to look forward to but a life behind bars. This way, they have a chance to prove that they can be rehabilitated. I can't speak for the courts, but I'm confident that it's the best chance they can hope for. Who knows? Maybe by the time we get home, the war will be over anyway. Starfleet is far more likely to be lenient once peace has been restored. By the time we arrive, the Maquis may be seen as the heroes of this war, rather than the villains."
"Nice try, Captain, but I think my people would rather take their chances on taking over the ship. Voyager would be a valuable addition to the Maquis cause," Chakotay said.
"But it wouldn't look very good on your record, would it, Commander Chakotay?"
"What?" Chakotay demanded, his bronzed face paling.
"I appreciate and admire your ability as an SCC operative, Commander. If I hadn't known better, I would have really thought my crew was in danger. Then again, if I had thought that, we'd be having this conversation in the brig instead of my Ready Room."
"You're very amusing, Captain, and I admire the way you're clutching at straws, but I'm afraid your information is wrong. The day I removed my Starfleet Uniform and joined the Maquis was the proudest day of my life. I'm fighting for a just cause against the oppression of the Cardassians and their allies, who unfortunately seem to include Starfleet. I don't know who told you I was a spy, Captain, but between you and me, you need to file a complaint when you get home. Well, if you find your way home after I've dropped you and your crew off on the next planet."
"Poor Will," Kathryn murmured, "and he had such a promising career in the SCC. I think Jean-Luc will be most disappointed in him."
"I'm not familiar with the names," Chakotay replied calmly.
"Let me refresh your memory," Kathryn said, pressing a key on her terminal to activate the coded message from Will Riker to his friend and fellow operative, Chakotay.
Chakotay watched and listened in silence, then turned and looked speculatively at Kathryn.
"Code," he snapped.
"Alpha, gamma, two, six, epsilon, alpha," Kathryn replied.
"Peace can be measured by its weight of free souls…" Chakotay murmured, then paused significantly.
"…but the soul of a man cannot be weighed," Kathryn finished confidently, then she looked at Chakotay expectantly. For a long time his face remained shuttered and cold, then he exhaled deeply and truly relaxed for the first time.
"So what was your real mission, Captain?" he asked, a sad but genuine smile tugging at his lips as he addressed her for the first time as a comrade-in-arms.
"On the surface, it was to capture you. That was the official Starfleet agenda, which obviously I didn't intend to be successful at. The underlying SCC mission was to capture an FIA operative who's infiltrated your cell."
"And what was the FIA's reason for allowing the mission to go ahead?" Chakotay asked bluntly.
Kathryn sighed. She'd hoped to avoid mentioning this part of the intrigue until she had a better understanding of Chakotay. Still, it was pointless to deny it. Chakotay obviously understood the wheels within wheels that had orchestrated this mission. Nothing happened in Starfleet these days unless it suited the individual agendas of all the political parties involved. The FIA and the SCC were like symbiotic leeches that needed to work together in their efforts to destroy each other.
"Admiral Paris deliberately aimed me at your ship, through misdirection, so that Tom would be able to escape with a different operative. An undercover Cardassian named Seska."
"Seska? Seska's a Cardassian?" Chakotay demanded incredulously. Then his face twisted. "Bitch. Fucking bitch. I'll kill her."
"You probably won't get the chance," Kathryn replied with a shrug. "I had her transported directly to the Brig and she's kicking up such a storm of protest that Security will probably do the job for you."
"Whatever. But Tom Paris is mine. I want to rip his fucking balls off myself," Chakotay snarled.
"Too bad," Kathryn said coldly. "Tom Paris is in protective custody. He doesn't know it yet, but if we can get him home in one piece, he's going to be a star witness in the trial against his father. He thinks I was going to let him run with Seska, but the truth is that I always intended to just get him onto your ship. If it hadn't been for the Caretaker, I was planning on asking you to keep him safe until the trial."
"Me?" Chakotay demanded incredulously. "Why the fuck do you think that I would keep him safe? The only thing I want to do to Tom Paris is rip his lying head off his shoulders."
Kathryn looked at him speculatively and stretched the truth a little.
"You're a senior officer in Starfleet Special Command, Chakotay. Your orders are to keep Tom safe until the trial. Since I have every intention of getting us home, those orders still stand. From now on you're responsible for his safety, Commander. Your personal feelings towards Tom aren't important. "
"And where are these orders?" Chakotay demanded, gesturing pointedly at the terminal for her to produce proof.
"As your superior officer, I just gave them to you," Kathryn snapped. "Are you questioning me?"
"Yes, I am," Chakotay growled. "This is bullshit, Captain. He's supposed to be in jail. If he's that damn important to the SCC, he should have just been put into solitary confinement."
"Will told me you fell in love with Tom," Kathryn replied carefully, "so I understand how personally you felt his apparent betrayal of you. But you don't know the whole story. Tom isn't your enemy, Chakotay. He's a victim of his father, not his tool."
Chakotay's angry expression darkened and his eyes flashed with loathing.
"I see he's been weaving his charms on you, Captain. Playing innocent victim again is he? He in your bed yet? That's his usual game plan. He know you're SCC, yet? Maybe this is a two for one deal. Maybe he's planning to turn both of us over to daddy dearest."
"No," Kathryn spat. "He's not in my bed and he has no idea I'm SCC. Then again, it's not surprising. After all, he still hasn't figured out that you are SCC. Your cover hasn't been blown, Chakotay, and if we're working on the assumption that we'll get home, we'd better keep it that way. Which means we have to be damn careful about how we deal with the real FIA spy Tom has already identified."
"Shit Kathryn. He's playing you. Can't you see it? Tom Paris is FIA scum. If he's given you any information, you can be damned sure he's got an ulterior motive."
"You think you're qualified to make that kind of judgment?" Kathryn hissed nastily. "You didn't even figure out that Seska was a modified Cardassian, did you? So how the hell can you say you know what Tom's motivations were?"
Chakotay looked at her in surprise, quickly re-evaluating the woman in front of him. He respected the fact that she was a Starfleet Captain, which was reason alone to suspect that the petite frame held a huge spirit, and the SCC codes she had handed him were probably genuine, which meant she was also trustworthy. He hoped. And, of course, the private note from Will helped.
Still, he had subconsciously dismissed her as a career officer who had simply been recruited by the SCC because of her posting to Admiral Paris's office. Now the cat was showing her claws, and they were surprisingly sharp.
"Tom didn't betray you, Chakotay. He wasn't posted to the Crazy Horse by the FIA, you know," she added. "Keeping track of you was always Tuvok's job."
Chakotay surged to his feet in shock.
"I take it you still hadn't guessed then. Tuvok is the main FIA operative assigned to your Maquis cell, Chakotay. He's the one who led you into the trap at Terrik Nor. He's also the one who's been reporting your movements for the last eighteen months. My mission here wasn't to capture you, it was to take him into custody."
"How do you know it's Tuvok?" Chakotay demanded, although there was no doubt in his voice. Too many facts fell into place the moment she mentioned Tuvok's name. So he accepted that Tuvok *was* FIA, despite his personal feelings of shock and betrayal over the revelation. Between Tom, Seska, Tuvok, and his own undercover role, he was beginning to wonder whether anyone on the Crazy Horse *wasn't* a spy. What he wanted to know, though, was where the intelligence had come from.
"Because Tom identified him to me," Kathryn admitted, although she decided not to mention yet that Tom thought she was FIA too.
"So the little weasel is turning on the hand that feeds him now? Typical whore isn't he?" Chakotay replied bitterly. "He'll do anything to save his own skin."
"Funny. That's not how I interpreted him risking his life to save you on Ocampa."
"You think he saved my life because he cared whether or not I died?" Chakotay laughed bitterly. "Believe me, Captain. I know Tom Paris. The only reason he did it was to worm his way into your favor. It was just another role he was playing. Like his betrayal of Tuvok. There might be a dozen FIA operatives scattered among both of our crews, but even if Paris names them all it doesn't prove anything except that he sees them as expendable. His cover's blown, so what better way to worm his way into your trust than to turn against his own people? He's playing you, Captain. I don't care what information you think he's given you. He hasn't changed. A dog never strays far from his vomit."
Kathryn blinked at the analogy.
"Have you mentioned your interpretation of the incident to anyone else yet?" Kathryn asked.
"No," Chakotay admitted, in confusion.
"Good. Then you can use the fact he saved your life as the reason you take him under your protection. It will save the Maquis from being suspicious about your change of heart towards him."
"You're really going to make me go through with this?" Chakotay demanded.
"As far as I'm concerned Chakotay, you can spend the rest of the journey pretending Tom doesn't exist. What you won't do is raise a hand towards him *or* allow anyone else to do so," Kathryn replied firmly.
Chakotay didn't bother to hide his anger, but his shoulders slumped a little in defeat.
"You're the Captain, " Chakotay growled.
"I'm glad you've finally remembered that fact," Kathryn replied.
"Permission to speak freely?"
"Granted," Kathryn nodded.
"Then I'd like to know why. If I've got to spend our journey home protecting the bastard, I'd like to at least know why you care one way or the other. And don't give me that shit about orders, Captain. Because if I'm just playing nursemaid to your fuck toy, I think I at least have the right to know."
Kathryn's face flushed with anger, and she made a mental note never to give Chakotay permission to speak freely again. She was just about to tell him to go to hell, when she saw a swiftly hidden look of genuine hurt flash deep within his dark eyes. Chakotay was jealous, she realized. Perhaps his primary feeling towards Tom was intense hatred, but it was the hatred of a spurned lover and the very depth of his emotion suggested that maybe there was still a tiny spark of love that could be coaxed back into life.
Tom loved this man, she reminded herself. Tom, who hadn't even known what the emotion meant until this harsh man before her had somehow broken through his conditioning. So there had to be more to Chakotay that met the eye. Chakotay had to be a more caring and compassionate soul than he pretended to be, because somehow he had taught Tom to love him.
And so it was for Tom's sake that she answered.
"He's a mod," Kathryn explained. "Do you understand the term?"
Chakotay just gave a grim nod but his furious expression wavered slightly with the shock of the revelation.
"It was done to him when he was no more than fifteen or sixteen at the direct orders of his father. He was deliberately altered on a genetic level to make him the perfect, virtually indestructible and obedient spy. It's hard to believe a father could do to his own child. All I can think about is how frightened and confused Tom must have been at the time. He didn't join the FIA willingly. He just did what he needed to do to survive. He had no choice, Chakotay. If he'd refused to obey his father, god only knows how he'd have been punished, and if he'd turned to the authorities for help, Tom would have been terminated because of his modifications. He had nowhere and no one to turn to. All he ever tried to do was stay alive. Can you really blame him for that?"
"It's better to die with honor than be an FIA whore," Chakotay growled unforgivingly. "Perhaps I understand his modifications a little better than you do, Captain. He certainly uses them for his own advantage. He might not have chosen to become a whore in the first place, but he's certainly enjoyed practicing to perfect his technique!"
"He was just a child, god-damn it! His own father turned him into a monster, then blackmailed the poor lonely kid into working for him, by dangling the chance of winning affection and approval like a carrot in front of Tom's nose. Do you know what he told me? That the reason he's on this ship, the real reason he agreed to run with Seska back to the Cardassians, even though he's expecting to be tortured to death by Dukat, was because his modifications had cost his father so much and he owed it to him to prove the money wasn't wasted."
"DUKAT?" Chakotay shouted. He surged to his feet in agitation. He'd known Tom was working for his father and he hated him for it, but he'd never once even imagined that Tom's perfidy had extended as far as the incident with Dukat. "What the hell has Tom Paris got to do with Dukat?"
"The real question is what Tom ever had to do with you. When Will warned you about Tom, he thought Tom was the spy on your ship. But he was wrong. As far as Will can figure out, Tom was targeted on Dukat at least six years ago. His modifications were only done so that the Admiral could plant him in Dukat's bed. Tom was never aimed at you at all. Not by the FIA at least. The only possible reason he was on your ship is because Dukat sent him, and even that doesn't make sense since Seska was already on board."
"It makes perfect sense," Chakotay whispered, his face blanching. "Seska did everything to get into my bed but failed for obvious reasons. So Dukat sent Tom to do the job. The bastard. The fucking little bastard. That 'rape', that whole fucking torture scene was a set up, wasn't it?"
"What rape?" Kathryn asked, completely confused.
"Why not ask Tom?" Chakotay said quietly, a small but decidedly unpleasant smile twitching the corner of his mouth. "I'm sure your new pet will be pleased to fill in the details for you."
"I don't know what really happened between you both, Chakotay, but I do know that Will Riker bitterly regrets the role he played in convincing you to turn Tom over to the Enterprise," Kathryn said, and was relieved to see at least a small flush of shame color Chakotay's cheeks at her comment. "Will's been trying to contact you and put the record straight, only he couldn't because all communications were lost as soon as your ship entered the Badlands. You're judging Tom on things he did before he ever met you, and neither of us can even begin to imagine the price he's already paid simply for being his father's son. Tom didn't betray you, Chakotay. He probably lied to you. He possibly even used you. But it was YOU who turned on him, not the other way around. If he can forgive you for that betrayal, surely you can find room in your own heart to at least give him the benefit of the doubt. If one good thing has come from our being stranded here in the Delta Quadrant, it's that we've both got the chance to give Tom a fresh start."
"The only start he needs is a shove in the back as he falls out of an airlock," Chakotay snarled back. "You've admitted yourself that he's been genetically modified to deliberately turn him into a weapon. Clause 23.5 of the Eugenics Code states categorically that the only appropriate response to that form of modification is euthanasia. I can see why the SCC would have wanted to keep him alive long enough to be used as evidence against Admiral Paris. But that trial, if it even takes place, is now seventy years away. Here, in the Delta Quadrant, I can't see any justification for putting off the termination."
"What kind of man are you, Chakotay? Will told me you were a good man. He said you were a man who was capable of violence but held peace as something sacred. He certainly didn't tell me you were either a bigot or a fool, so I have to assume this blind hatred for Tom is nothing to do with his modifications. It's to do with your own ego, isn't it? You fell in love with a man who then had the temerity to turn out to be less than perfect. Well, grow up, Chakotay. No-one's perfect and Tom has a hell of a better excuse for the mistakes he has made than most people do. He doesn't deserve hate. If anything he deserves your sympathy."
"He had my sympathy, Captain. He won it on the day I had to make the choice whether to betray my colleagues or save him from being brutally raped in front of my eyes. He was screaming, Captain, begging me to save him. There was blood everywhere and the look in his eyes broke my heart. So I gave up the codes because I couldn't bear to watch him suffer for one moment longer," Chakotay replied, his eyes glittering with suppressed rage. "Do you know who was 'raping' him? It was Dukat. The same Dukat you've just told me Tom was whored to six years ago. So don't give me any crap about giving Tom sympathy. I fell for his crocodile tears once. I'll never make that mistake again."
Kathryn looked at him in shocked sympathy. No wonder Chakotay distrusted Tom, but she was still sure that Tom had been telling the truth when he had said that he would have followed Chakotay to the ends of the universe.
"Whatever he has done in the past, he loves you, ," she said sincerely, as much to offer comfort to Chakotay as to plead Tom's cause.
"You know something, Captain Janeway? I don't care whether he does or doesn't. As far as I can see, whatever masquerades as love in the heart of Tom Paris is a cheap and worthless thing," Chakotay replied dismissively.
"I'm sorry to hear you say that," Kathryn snapped, worn down by Chakotay's self-pity. "Because it tells me that the poor little bastard obviously fell in love with the wrong man." Chakotay opened his mouth to answer, but Kathryn didn't give him the opportunity to interrupt her.
"Quite frankly, it's not important. I'm the Captain of this ship, not her Counselor. My only interest in your personal relationships, Commander, is in as far as they impact the running of the ship. I understand the need to maintain your cover, so you can use any personal arguments or excuses to your old crew to ensure their co-operation and acceptance of your role as my First Officer. But what I won't permit is yourself or any member of this crew to abuse Tom Paris. Quite apart from anything else, he's the only decent pilot we've got. As soon as our conversation is over, I intend to call him in here and offer him a field promotion to Lieutenant, and as First Officer I expect you to give him the same professional courtesy as you would to anyone holding that rank."
"What about Tuvok?" Chakotay asked sarcastically. "Are you going to make him a Lieutenant too?"
"No. I'm going to appoint Tuvok as Lieutenant Commander."
Chakotay snorted and looked at her as though she'd lost her mind.
Kathryn sighed and gave a weary shrug to acknowledge the ridiculousness of the situation they were in..
"I don't see that I have any other choice at this time. As far as I can see, no-one will question my decision to arrest Seska once the EMH has proven Tom is right about her being Cardassian. Tuvok, on the other hand, has committed no arrestable offence and he can prove that he *is* a Starfleet officer of rank. Whatever we feel about its practices, the FIA is still a legitimate division of Starfleet. My only other option is to terminate him, but that's out of the question. We're pretty sure that Tuvok is high up in Paris's organization, and that makes him too valuable to kill. I was just supposed to arrest him for being a Maquis, then transport him to the Enterprise where he would have been interrogated."
"Not easy to interrogate a Vulcan," Chakotay murmured.
"It is if you have a team of Vulcans to do it."
Chakotay finally looked impressed.
"He really is *that* important?"
"We hoped so," Kathryn agreed. "Between Tuvok's 'testimony' and the evidence of Tom's modifications, we're hoping we'll finally have enough evidence to confront the Admiral."
"If we get home," Chakotay pointed out dryly.
"Since we are carrying the two men who probably hold the key to stopping the Cardassian conflict, we'd better damn well hope that we do get home and that both Tom and Tuvok arrive there in one piece. It seems to me that the best way to achieve both is for neither of us to reveal we know Tuvok is FIA, and for you to be professional enough to keep your personal feelings about Tom to yourself."
"I assure you Captain, that no one on this ship will have any reason to suspect that I have any problem with either man. With respect, I've been an undercover operative for far longer than you have. Both Paris and Tuvok will receive nothing less than the respect due their ranks."
"But nothing more," Kathryn concluded sadly.
"My people will expect me to treat Paris with contempt, regardless of whether he saved my life. As far as they and I are concerned, he's a known traitor to our cause. I'll be civil to him on duty and I'll ensure his physical safety. That's all. If you're that concerned about his morale, I suggest you appoint a ship's counselor."
"Very well," Kathryn agreed, accepting his concession as the best offer she was going to get. Tom Paris would be physically safe on Voyager, she was assured of that much. She had a feeling, however, that the young man's already unhappy life was just about to hit rock bottom.
And the worst of it was, she couldn't think of anything more she could do to prevent it.