By Morticia

Part 1

Pairing C/P

Set shortly after the Jonas incident.

Archive: Cha-club, TPDorm, and Paris Nights only.

Disclaimer:  The boyz don't belong to me (all hail mighty paramount)
                      but this story does!

Hostage by Morticia

After a seemingly endless duck and dive retreat from the harrying skirmishes of the Kazon that had finally ended when Tom Paris had thrown the ship through the middle of an alien minefield. Voyager was limping slowly towards the Alpha Quadrant. Her starboard nacelle was off line, the warp core was working at only 40% capacity, the gel packs on decks 6 through 9 had been irreparably damaged and 12 crewmembers were in sick bay, three on life support.

Captain Janeway had dragged herself back off the floor and was half-collapsed in the command chair. Her chestnut hair was in disarray and a black carbonized burn scarred her left cheek where her console had exploded in the last encounter, throwing her unconscious to the deck, a mere two hours previously.

"Status, Mr. Paris." She requested tiredly, wondering whether the merciless pounding in her head was concussion or just the mother of all headaches. She was gratified to see a genuine smile on the pilot's equally dirty face as he twisted in his seat to look at her.

"Glad to have you back, Captain. We have impulse engines and although it feels like I'm steering a pregnant walrus, she's responding fine now and the Kazon have bottled out. After they lost the first three ships they pulled back out of the mines."

"What mines?" Janeway queried non-plussed.

"After you were knocked out, we were chased to the border of an alien defense array Ė a minefield I guess you could call it. Anyway we went through it and the Kazon didnít."

Commander Chakotay stiffened a little in his own chair as the smug voice of the pilot grated on his tautly strung nerves.

"Perhaps their pilots have less of a death wish, Paris.  Entering a live minefield was reckless stupidity. You disobeyed my direct order and you could have killed us all."

Tom flinched as though struck, his bright eyes going dull and flat even as he gave a careless shrug and grinned with apparent nonchalance at the irate commander:

"I didn't have time to argue the toss with you, Sir. If I hadn't done it we'd have been captured or blown up. Under the circumstances, it seemed worth my taking the risk and it paid off. We're here, we're safe, and the Kazon aren't."

Kathryn sighed at the two men's quarrel. Although she had been unconscious during Voyager's entry into the alien defense array, she could almost picture the scene as Tom saw an opportunity for escape and disregarded Chakotay's order as being just the usual lack of faith in the pilot's ability to navigate such a hazard. Now, yet again, she would be torn between the choice to have Tom put on report for disobeying Chakotay's orders or to praise his success in saving them all.

She decided that for the sake of harmony, she would have to simply disregard Tom's actions and neither applaud nor condemn him, and pray that Chakotay also let the matter drop.  Despite the two men's attempts to put their mutual antipathy behind them, and their usual ability to at least work together professionally, it obviously still only took a small crisis to crack the façade of goodwill and put them at each other's throats again.

She was surprised at Chakotay's intractability. He was such a wonderful judge of character usually and endlessly patient and understanding of the rest of the crew's foibles. Tom, however, brought out a completely unique aggressive quality in the usually taciturn Commander, which both intrigued and frustrated her.  Tom's actions HAD been drastic and dangerous, but he had evidently pulled off his gamble with aplomb.

"Gentlemen, the important thing is that we have escaped the Kazon.  Let's find out where we are and whose defense system we have breached."

"The minefield appears to have been in place for several millennia," Tuvok stated "It is possible that the race who built it are no longer in residence."

His optimistic comment was immediately refuted as the space in front of the view port rolled and distorted to reveal a gleaming solid black triangular ship several times larger than themselves.

Tom 'slammed the brakes on' and Voyager's reverse thrusters whined in protest as the ship shuddered to a halt before the monstrous alien ship.

"Life signs register as organic only." Tuvok quickly stated in acknowledgement of the fact that the bridge crew's immediate reaction had been to think "Borg"

"It sure LOOKS like a Borg cube, only it's NOT a cube." Harry said from his station and then blushed at the nonsensical nature of his own statement.

"I understand exactly what you mean, Harry." Chakotay replied, throwing the ensign a comforting smile.

Even as the Captain prepared herself for the encounter with whichever unfriendly Delta Quadrant natives they had stumbled on THIS time, she spared a moment of sympathy for Tom, who she noticed had watched Chakotay's comforting of Harry with a look of wistful envy.

Since the Caretaker, Tom had made great headway in finding acceptance on the ship and both Harry and now B'Elanna seemed to have as much time for the troubled young man as she did, but still it hurt her that the others, and particularly Chakotay, failed to see Tom's true qualities.

She knew that she hadn't helped matters with the Jonas incident. She had no regrets about the way she had used Tom to flush out the traitor, she was the Captain and she had done what had been necessary to protect everyone, but she still felt sorrow at the further harm and distrust she had consequently created between two of her most trusted officers.

"Incoming transmission, Captain." Harry advised

"On screen" She snapped and looked to see what nature of alien monstrosity the Delta Quadrant was throwing at them this time, only to frown in puzzlement as the Ďaliení was revealedÖ

Harry, less experienced in hiding his emotions, gasped out loud. Despite his outlandish ornately jeweled costume, the alienís gleaming black hair, brown skin, high cheekbones and slightly slanted ebony eyes were undoubtedly human in origin. He had none of the facial ridges that seemed normal for this part of space but rather the fine features and proud carriage of a Nubian prince.

"Alien vessel, you are in breach of the laws governing Bírechík space. You have entered our territory despite the warning buoys and have penetrated beyond our defense grid. Your violation is considered an act of war and your property is now liable to forfeit. Stand down your weapons systems and prepare to be boarded so that we may collect the fine."

Despite his harsh words, the dark handsome face of the speaker did not display anger, but rather boredom as though he was merely following routine orders and found their incursion into his space an irritation that he would rather have done without.

"I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Ė " The Captain began to reply with an appeasing smile, sure that the man would listen to reason.

"SILENCE, WOMAN!" The alien shouted, the boredom on his face replaced by horrified outrage. He turned furiously to look at Chakotay who was sat next to Janeway.

"You insult me THUS?" He screamed at the perplexed Commander, "You let a female address ME?"

Janeway and Chakotay exchanged a look and then the Captain shrugged and nodded at the Commander to take over.

"Forgive us," Chakotay said softly "We meant no offence, in our society males and females are considered equal."

The alien regarded him in shock and turned a distinct shade of green as he considered Chakotayís words. Then he recovered his aplomb and gave a mocking grin.

"Your society also seems to have no respect for the law of trespass. Why did you violate our territory despite the clearly posted warnings?"

"Warnings?" Chakotay rumbled dangerously, turning suspiciously to the pilot "What warnings, Paris?"

"Well, sure there were some warning buoys, but there would be in front of a minefield, wouldnít there?" Tom mumbled, shifting nervously on his seat "And I didnít have time to worry about them with a fleet of Kazon warships up my ass!"

Tom looked up at the face of the alien and gave him his sunniest smile:

"Iím really sorry, Sir and Iíll happily take us straight back out again!  Weíll be gone before you know it!" He offered brightly.

The alien regarded Tom with the same shock he had Janeway, but with more interest than horror.

"THIS kítech is your pilot? HE navigated your ship through the defense grid?" He asked in complete astonishment, looking at Tom with evident fascination and an odd acquisitive greed.

"Lt. Paris is our pilot." Chakotay agreed, wondering what a Kítech was. He soon found out.

"You let a woman speak and travel on a space ship AND you let a Kítech wear clothes and actually FLY a ship? You are truly a barbarous society." The alien concluded, his voice filled with wonder. He pondered quietly for a moment, obviously digesting the information and then a sly smile crept over his features and he addressed Chakotay once more.

"I admit it is of great interest to me that a Kítech could do such things. They rarely have enough brains to do more than feed themselves without instruction. He must have cost you a great deal. Probably enough to cover your fines. I shall enjoy confiscating him from you, my breeding pens will benefit from his inclusion."

Tom jumped to his feet in outrage "What the hell do you mean?" He shouted at the dark-skinned alien.

"Sit down, Paris, youíve already got us in enough trouble." Chakotay snapped, "Let me handle this." He turned back to the screen.

"You misunderstand," he told the alien firmly, "Lt. Paris is NOT a Kítech and is not property. We are truly sorry to have violated your space and will pay any reasonable penalty, but not with a member of the crew. There are no slaves on Voyager."

The alien laughed. "You are either stupid or you think that I am." He said, his handsome face contorting into a sneer. "He is clearly Kítech and it is irrelevant whether you consider him Ďfreeí. I am not one of those weaklings who think that a Kítech is a REAL person."

At a gesture from the alien, the screen panned back to show more of the alien bridge, and what was revealed made the whole bridge crew of Voyager gasp. All of the alien crew were ornately dressed, their skin tones varying from white to ebony but all with identical black hair and eyes. However, kneeling submissively at the feet of each and every one of the dark-haired aliens were chained naked slaves, all male. Each of the slaves was beautiful. Their bodies were richly adorned with jewelry and gold collars like pampered pets and without exception they were all blonde and blue-eyed.

Tom went white as realisation struck him and he looked helplessly at the Captain.

Janeway gave Tom a reassuring smile but turned worried eyes to Chakotay and saw his usually calm face reflecting her concern.

"Itís obviously a coloration issue. " She whispered, her face downcast to hide her moving lips from the vision of the aliens. "The brunettes are the leaders, the blondes are slaves and the women are presumably left at home."

"Drop your shields," The alien ordered, tired of the argument "I would prefer not to risk damaging my new Kítech by opening fire on your puny vessel."

"I repeat, we will pay a fine if you insist but NOT with the life of one of our crew." Chakotay said firmly

"The choice of how your fine is paid is MINE to make" the alien insisted and signaled to one of his crew.

"The alien ship has powered weapons, Captain." Tuvok announced calmly

"Our shields will not hold against them and they have engaged a tractor beam to stop us running."

Tom broke his horrified gaze away from the scene on the View screen. He was nearly in tears and his thin body was noticeably trembling but still he turned bravely to the Captain.

"I donít want the crew put in danger, Captain. Chakotayís right. Itís my fault we are here and you will all be released if I go with them. Just let them have me." His voice broke a little on the last word and he blushed at the evidence of his own fear, but there was little doubt of what his new future would hold for him and he couldnít pretend not to be terrified by the humiliating prospect of becoming a ĎKítechí.

"NO!" Janeway hissed, desperately trying to think of another solution, even as part of her mind acknowledged that yet again she might have to sacrifice the brave young man for the sake of the crew.

"I canít let you be treated like THAT!" she said, looking pityingly at the naked blond slaves on the alien ship.

His back turned to the viewscreen; Tom whispered, "You donít have to Captain. I just need to live long enough for you all to leave and then it would be better if I just had some kind of pill or something to take."

Tears sprung into Janewayís eyes at Tomís casual offer of suicide to save his crewmates but it was Chakotay who reacted with complete horrified disbelief and fury at the idea. Ignoring Tom for the moment he turned to the alien.

"You say we are in violation of your laws and that you therefore have the right to confiscate our pilot."

The Alien grinned his agreement with a predatory flash of white teeth.

"Then I want to see a copy of those laws. Send them over. You cannot expect us to agree without validation of your claims." Chakotay said with calm authority.

The Alienís smug look slipped slightly.  Another member of his crew whispered in his ear and the two proceeded to argue quietly while the crew of Voyager watched. Finally the first Alien turned back to the viewscreen.

"Very well, although it is a complete waste of both my time and yours. You will find no loopholes. I will give you 30 minutes and then if your shield is not lowered, I will collect my property and destroy your ship."

The viewscreen went dark and the occupants of the bridge all turned to each other in stunned horror.

"The Bírechík file has been transmitted" Tuvok confirmed.

"Transfer it into my ready room. I want all senior crew in there immediately. We only have 30 minutes to find an answer." Janeway snapped and jumped up, cursing her headache that was growing by the second.

Ten minutes later, Tuvok turned to the others and emotionlessly stated that the Bírechík captain had been truthful about his right to claim ANY property of his choice in payment of the fine as long as its worth did not exceed the value of the penalty.

"What is the penalty?" Chakotay asked desperately

"The fine is extremely steep. I cannot translate it adequately into our currency, but I doubt that anything less than the forfeit of our warp core would satisfy the debt. We are not carrying anything else of substantial value."

"Except me." Tom muttered bitterly

"Indeed," Tuvok replied "The alien appears to have set your value at a surprisingly high figure."

The others glared at Tuvok for his insensitivity but Tom merely shrank defeatedly into his seat.

"I guess thatís it then." He mumbled, "Iíd better say my goodbyes."

Kathryn looked helplessly at the dejected figure of her pilot. BíElanna had already confirmed that they were outgunned and hadnít got a chance in hell of escape. They had so little power after the Kazon attack that even their shields were only at 40%. They were sitting ducks.  As much as it ripped her heart out, she had to weigh one life against 147.

"This is piracy, Captain!" BíElanna snarled furiously, "The whole thing stinks. Itís just a way of robbing passing ships."

"Youíre right, Lieutenant. The Bírechík probably assume that any ship that can penetrate their defense array has got technology worth stealing and have devised this Ďfineí system to justify the theft. Unfortunately they have the advantage of size and strength. I doubt anyone gets away without paying some type of penalty."

"I wonder what happens in cases when a trespassing ship has nothing of value to offer?" Chakotay asked quietly.

Tuvok raised his eyebrow in response, considered the Commanderís words thoughtfully and then checked quickly through the Bírechík law book until he found the answer.

"The fine is automatically doubled and the Captain of the offending ship is held hostage against the return of his crew with the fine. In view of the size of the fine and the fact that a ship unable to raise the first ransom is highly unlikely to be able to raise double, there have been few cases where the hostage has later been released." Tuvok announced.

"Is there precedent of anyone refusing to pay something that Ďmightí have paid the fine?" Chakotay asked

"Yes, in instances when the loss of the required item was deemed impossible for the survival of the rest of the crew, such as navigation systems and warp cores, it is legitimate to say the fine cannot be paid."

"So since Tom is our pilot, it would be reasonable and legitimate to refuse to hand him over?" Janeway asked.

"I believe that is essentially correct." Tuvok confirmed solemnly

"Then I will take his place." Janeway said firmly.

"NO!" Tom shouted, "I canít let you do that!"

"My being a hostage is undoubtedly going to be less of an ordeal than you becoming a Kítech, Tom." The Captain explained

"The status of a hostage is uncertain, Captain." Tuvok replied, "While it is unlikely to be as physically demeaning as that of a slave, there is no guarantee of good treatment. I must also point out that these Bírechík will not acknowledge a woman in any position of authority. They will not accept you as Voyagerís Captain."

Janewayís face fell as she realised the truth of Tuvokís last words.

"I will be the hostage." Chakotay announced in a soft growl. "They already consider me to be the Captain, there is no reason for them to refuse."

"It is a more logical solution." Tuvok agreed.

"NO!" Tom yelled at the Commander "You canít do this for me. You donít even LIKE me!"

"Itís decided." Chakotay replied, turning away from the naked distress in the younger manís eyes and addressing the Captain.

"I fully understand that you may be unable to return for me. I will explain my decision to my old crew so that they understand why you have left me."

Kathryn nodded reluctantly. At least this way there was a chance for them all to survive. Somehow she knew she would find the ransom and return for this brave man who had once been her enemy and was now her closest friend.

"Thank you, Chakotay." She said and he met her eyes and nodded his acknowledgement. He had no illusions that Voyager would return for him, no matter how much they might try. Alone in the DQ they would never find the cost of his ransom and would eventually have to give up and leave without him. He knew this, and he dreaded the thought of what his life as a hostage of the Bírechík would be but he knew without doubt that whatever he might suffer would be nothing in comparison to the fate that would await Tom if he didnít make the sacrifice.

Tom didnít seem grateful however; he was red with fury, his hands balled into fists and his eyes flashing as he jumped to his feet:

"You canít agree with this Captain! Iím dispensable, heís not. Itís my fault, you canít let him do it." He shouted desperately. Although the prospect of being handed over to the Bírechík terrified him, he knew he couldnít live with the guilt of knowing that Chakotay had taken his place.

Kathryn closed her eyes for a moment as Tomís yelling pounded through her aching head. She understood Tomís distress but the decision was made.

"Sit down, Lieutenant." She snapped, "Itís not your fault, itís not anybodyís. I donít like this any more than you do, but Chakotay will stay as a hostage and we will find the ransom and return for him. That is my final decision."

"But you canít Ė" Tom began

"Unless you want to spend the next week in the brig, I suggest you sit down and shut up." Kathryn snarled and the pilot collapsed into his chair, fresh tears springing to his eyes.  She sighed internally. She was proud of his protests and willingness to sacrifice himself. So she regretted having to slap him down like that, but the decision was hard enough without having to fight him every step of the way.

"Our 30 minutes are up, letís advise the Bírechík Captain of our decision." She finally said and led the way back to the bridge.

They were barely settled in their seats before the viewscreen snapped back on.

"Your shields are still up. I take it you want to fight then?" The alien said with a definite smirk.

"We agree to your fine." Chakotay said and watched the Bírechíkianís smile spread. "However, since we are unable to pay it, I offer myself as hostage against the debt."

The Bírechík Captainís eyes widened in disbelief.

"I have already told you I will accept your Kítech in payment, what kind of trick is this?" He snarled furiously

"My Kítech is our pilot. He is vital to the survival of the crew. According to your own laws you cannot confiscate any property that would leave our ship vulnerable."

"He is Kítech, he CANíT be your only pilot!" The alien spluttered

"We can send you our logs which will prove that Tom has been the helm officer since we arrived in your quadrant." Chakotay countered.

The Bírechík Captain conferred with his colleagues for a long time and then turned back to the screen, his face filled with fury and disappointment.

"You will regret this, HOSTAGE!" he snarled in defeat, his eyes flashing promises of punishment.

Chakotay merely shrugged and rose to his feet. "I will have myself transported over to your ship now." He said with dignity.

The viewscreen went black and Chakotay turned to Kathryn who was bravely blinking back tears "Itís okay," he assured her quietly.

"Let me come with you to the transporter room, at least?" She asked but Chakotay shook his head.

"Iíd rather just go alone, if you donít mind." He replied and she nodded, understanding his need to compose himself privately.

Chakotay tapped his comm-badge and made a ship-wide announcement of his decision to remain with the Bírechík. He carefully made no mention of either Tomís part in them arriving at their current predicament nor the fact that the Pilot had been the requested payment. He didnít want anyone to blame the younger man for his decision.

Rather than feeling relief and gratitude at Chakotayís tact, Tom was outraged by Chakotayís nobility. It felt like another slap in the face. Yet again Chakotay was rubbing his nose in the fact that he was a fuck-up and a coward. He wasnít even leaving him the opportunity to do public penance for his actions.

He watched Chakotay walk proudly to the turbolift and something inside him snapped.

Just before the doors closed, Tom jumped out of his seat, raced across the bridge and dove through the narrow gap to confront the older man.

"Why are you doing this?" He screamed at the calm face of the Commander "Donít you think I live with enough guilt and regret already? How the hell can I live with myself if you do this for me?"

Tom was stunned when Chakotayís only reply to his bitter tirade was a gentle smile as he raised a hand to wipe a tear from Tomís cheek.

"My life belongs to you, remember?" He told the pilot. "Just think of this as my way of repaying you for saving my life back on Ocampa."

Tom twisted from his touch

"I donít understand. You HATE me. You think Iím a useless fuck-up. Why the hell are you doing this?" He sobbed.

The turbolift ground to a halt and the doors opened onto the transporter room.  Chakotay walked away from Tom without replying. The younger man grabbed at his shoulder in an attempt to stop him mounting the transporter pad and Chakotay turned unexpectedly and landed his fist against Tomís chin hard so heavily that the pilot was knocked senseless to the floor.

Ensign Foster watched in disbelief as the Commander then bent down to his unconscious victim and laid a soft kiss on his forehead.

"You never did understand me, Tom." Chakotay said quietly "It was never HATE I felt for you."

Then he straightened himself and walked to the transporter pad.

He met Fosterís eyes. "Take care of him for me?" He asked softly and the ensign nodded in sudden understanding.

"Energize" Chakotay ordered and a few seconds later he was gone from Voyager to begin the rest of his life as a Bírechík hostage.