Home Trials-Part Seven
by Rose Kira
* Tomorrow do thy worst, I have lived today.- John Dryden
Broken. It seems to be the word we keep coming back to.
She was drained, exhausted, after telling me of Owen Paris, and in the pensive silence that followed, the missing pieces of the puzzle I considered my best friend finally fell together. There had always been a sort of friction between the captain and Paris, the kind of desperate comradeship that you only find in people trying not to rip each others throats out. She had been laughing with him, flirting with him, trying not to fight with him for seven years, and it leaked through that night.
The conversation was mostly one-sided afterward, her anxious, dry ramblings of new assignments and responsibilities and, we both knew, just about anything to fill the emptiness. Somewhere around the fourth glass of wine, she lifted the fluted glass, expecting me to ask, and I did. "Old nobility?"
"Picard." Her head inclined fractionally, gravely. "The most noble. I know the man, or knew him, before the Delta Quadrant. Back then, he was very noble, very...lonely."
"A hell of a lot lonelier." Looking lost, she sat the glass down untouched. "Its a command issue."
I almost laughed at that, but the truth of the faintly apathetic remark sobered me. "Maybe you two should get together."
"He's not my type." Leaning forward on the mass of cushions we had spread out, she smiled slowly.
I felt my skin prickle. "You know, Seven always tried to kiss me by the time I reached the fourth glass of anything."
"Chakotay doesn't drink." Her tones were wry. "Poor Borg mine."
"I think..." An increasingly difficult task... "I think she'll be fine."
"My God, Lieutenent, you got me drunk." She seemed fascinated by the accomplishment, and even more fascinated by my chest, trailing elegant fingers.
Struggling to sit up and fight back the drowsiness, I grasped her palms, turning them downward to rest on the floor. "Admiral, you're drunk. You need..."
You. I read the word before it left her lips, and the fact that it came silently made little difference. Grimacing, I grasped her arm, pushing her back gently enough to give us both space. Leaning back on her heels, she finally seemed to clear up, shoulders stiffening. "My apologies. I need a cold...snow...shower. I'll be out on the porch. Cut the lights when you go to bed, will you?"
"Harry." Janeway glanced down at me as she tugged a blanket around her shoulders. "I never accept a no twice after Picard vintage. Don't...just, lets don't."
She did come back in eventually, near midnight, long after I had dimmed the lights. even with the wind wailing, she tried to be quiet, tip-toeing out of boots and overclothes, sliding under the blankets gracefully. Shifting only slightly, I caught her eyes momentarily, and she accepted the invitation offered, curling into my side. We slept, peacefully.
I followed her to Starfleet Command the next day, her first trip there since that last evening on Voyager. It was business as usual, she wore her best command face as we walked through the halls, smiled and laughed and shook anxious palms and gracefully eluded overly zealous admirers and detractors. It wasn't until we began the walk off campus that the strain began to show in the stiffness of her posture, the clenching of her hands, the spare silence. There was talk already, we had been holed up together in Indiana when I wasn't visiting Paris or she her mother. Our joint visit was, I realized, her tentative testing of the waters...reactions now could very well determine just how far she was willing to take the relationship we were stumbling into. I wasn't sure I liked her methods, or the implications of her discomfort.
We had managed to pace a few meters, watching the sunset, when I saw Tom by the edge of the bay, strolling Miral. He was waiting, clearly, for us to pass, and while I was sure it would cost me something later, my trust in his emotions wasn't very high at the time. I took her elbow, pushed her lightly in the opposite direction, and her gaze lifted from the ground, catching him.
She stopped then, shaking her head, removing my hand gently, but firmly. "I have to go talk to him, Harry, or he'll never back off. Why don't you wait here?"
I did, biting back my doubts, turning the other way to grant privacy. The wind, though, carried most of the conversation, their tones, rising and falling.
"Captain, Admiral." Tom's tones were urgent, loud, indignant at first, then falling, reasoning. "You know this is destroying Harry...how can you put him into this...hell, your life...knowing all that baggage you'll tie to him? He thinks he's found heaven, sure, but..."
"Its his life, Tom. My life. Not yours." I could read the restrained frustration in her gentle rubuttal, could imagine her furrowed brows.
Turning, I winced and forced myself not to intrude as he caught her by the shoulders abruptly, painfully, pulled her back, blue eyes flickering with frustration. Tightening one hand on a thin shoulder, he jerked the other up swiftly, clutching at her collar, fingers prying loose the pips, scattering them to the snow. Stepping away, he bowed, tones half-mocking, half-subdued. "What are you without them? Is there anything left to give him? No, I don't think so. Just leave him alone, before you destroy him."
"I can't do that, Tom." Yes, there was desperation there, and pity. "Destroy him? Do you think I'm in this...relationship...out of some godforsaken deception of greed? I care for him."
"Like you loved my father? Chakotay? Michael? Jaffen? And any other number of men, real or otherwise?" Shaking his head, he faced me again, meeting my eyes over her head, the anger unretreating. Finally, after watching her bend to retrieve the pips, Tom turned back to Miral, pushing the stroller away. He never looked back at us.