In The Cards
by RoseKira

WATCH ME BLEED. Heaven comes to he who waits But I know I'm getting nowhere And all the deeds of yesterday Have really helped to pave my way Though there's no one near me now How come everyone can touch me You see the torture on my brow Relates to neither here nor now Watch me bleed Bleed forever Although my face is straight, it lies My body feels the Pain and cries Here the table is not bare I am full but feeling empty For all the warmth it feels so cold For one so young I feel so old Watch me bleed Bleed forever It's not allowed to be unkind But still the hate lives in my mind I'll make no noise I'll hide my pain I'll close my eyes I won't complain I'll lie right back and take the blame And tried to tell myself I'm living And when it's all been said or done Where do I go ? Where do I run ? What's left of me or anyone when we've denied the hurting? ***

It was a nice place, Janeway mused, fingers tightening protectively around her shot glass as a Klingon swaggered past, eyes lingering on her. Take me if you want, buster, I'm a bitch, but stay clear of the drink, she mentally challenged, brows raising. He staggered away, and she leaned back, glancing around. 

A nice place, yes. Sandrine's made over. The little bar, and, some said, bordello, on Earth was thriving, looking damned good. Its owner wasn't doing so bad either, she mused appreciatively as Tom Paris strode past, angrily gesturing to a group of punks and completely missing her in the crowd. 

A group headed for the tables and she followed, taking a cue and stepping back unobtrusively. The game was a washout, and she was ready to walk out a great many credits the richer when a voice stopped her just short of the revolving door. "With luck like that, ma'am, I wouldn't be so quick to leave." 

Had he recognized her? What an idiotic question. Just how many petite women who happened to be pool experts had he ever called ma'am in that particular tone? She snorted to herself, running cold fingers down the door frame and turning. "Tom." "Captain." His bow fell slightly short of sincere. "And we thought you were dead." 

Another snort, followed by a raised brow. "And you always warned poor Harry about thinking too much. No, not dead. Not anymore, Mister Paris. Not anymore. Just a floating memory." 

"Back with Starfleet?" 

"Not likely. No...just...a wandering stranger. You should read the news coms more often, Tom. Captain Kathryn Janeway died in a very tragic and extremely freak phaser accident a year ago. She was cremated and scattered to the heavens. Still dead, by all official accounts, and those are certainly the ones that matter. I played my cards the wrong way...they don't want Captain Janeway back. Everyone is still mourning deeply, I'm sure...except Kate Jaffen, who is marvelously happy to be alive." He cleared his throat, not looking particularily surprised at her faked demise or changed name. "I'm sure. Well, Kate Jaffen, you had better stick around and get that gash on your arm tended to. It was affecting your game. Klingon in origin?" 

"Very perceptive." She nodded affirmation. 

"I was married to a Klingon, remember?" 

"Touche. Was? Is that past tense?" 

"Might as well be. She's off somewhere...pulling engineering duty in the backwaters of the stars. Should be back in a decade or so, if she really misses me. Its all good, though...Miss Miral and Harry Junior keep the bed almost as warm on a winter night." 

"Harry Junior?" she choked on the whiskey he had handed her. 

"The dog, Captain. The dog." His eyes lit up with laughter. 

"I see." She sat down quickly. "And the human Harry? How is he?" 

"I have no idea. He pulled a disappearing act too, interestingly enough right after Seven of Nine got married. If it makes him feel better, I think she's as miserable as Lanna and I are." 

"Who did SHE marry?" Janeway decided that she was getting one hell of a migraine. "Who else? Chakotay." The words were quiet, precise. "You should've figured on that."

She sat the shot glass down with a thunk. "Of course I should've, Paris, but I didn't. There's no logic to the universe, is there?" 

He laughed, lines around his eyes more notable than ever. "Tuvok said that at the wedding. I think the batch of us are driving him crazy. You should contact him, you know." 

Her voice grew meditative. "And open up decades worth of wounds? Hardly. Tuvok is the one person in the universe I don't want to hurt anymore."

"You don't think your supposed death was hurt enough?" 

"He's Vulcan. They deal with loss." 

His hand slammed over hers on the scarred table surface, gripping her wrist in a breaking hold. "That's all there is for you, isn't it? Dealing. You got yourself and a couple of hundred people lost in the Delta Quadrant, away from family, friends, lives...they just had to deal with it. The closest thing you ever had to a daughter is locked in a miserable marriage to the man who loved you more than life itself, and they'll just have to deal with it. Your best friend and the only bastard loyal enough to follow you to hell and back with no expectation of gratitude thinks you're dead and he'll just have to deal with it. The Ensign who loved you more than he did himself is god knows where, torn up over your death and Seven, and we just all have to deal with it." 

"Let go of me." Her voice was taunt, eyes flashing darkly. 

"Not likely." He bit the words out, eyes radiating rare, unbridled hatred. "You're a gambler, Captain. You deal the cards and call the game, and win or lose, you walk away and let the ashes fall where they may. And you don't care." 

"You truly hate me, do you?" Her lips were twisted in a bitter smile as she yanked her hand back, standing. 

"No." He leaned back, eyes drifting to her gaze. "I love you. And its a guaranteed loss." 

Her chuckle was short, edging on the hysteric, as she leaned down, lips dancing tauntingly close to his. "Then you need to change your strategem, Tom." 

His smile was suddenly subdued, wry, self-deprecating. "I don't think so. Alice and Wonderland, ma'am. The Queen of Hearts had a habit of beheading those foolish enough to get too close. I may be many things, but I am not a fool. You were leaving, I believe." 

No retorts for that. Her jaw ticked harshly, hands curled. And she left, striding out into the dark. 

Paris turned back to his poker table and dealt the cards for a fresh round. 

The end