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TRIOS: Invitation (PG-13)
by Vyola (ladyvyola@yahoo.com)

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Itd be so much easier if I had maternal feelings for him.

I remember the very first time that thought crossed my mind. The very first time I met Tom Paris. After all, I was nearly 15 years older and had never, even in my own salad days, exhibited the immaturity that filled his record.

Then I came face-to-face with a blue-eyed blond rogue...

~ye gods, a fallen angel straight from a Regency holonovel~

...and a mental voice began chanting, "sublimate, sublimate."

And I did, because starship captains don't get involved with junior officers, much less convicted terrorists. I mentally assigned him to the same category as Harry Kim -- young, subordinate, brother/son surrogate -- and fully expected him to stay there until the mission was over and he was gone. How long could it take to capture one Maquis ship and return home, anyway?

Now I know better than to ask that sort of question.

My reflection floats over the stars outside my window. They shine though my green gown like fireflies above a field. I look like Kathryn now. Janeway's retired for the night. I'm getting better at letting the Captain rest when she can. Seventy years is too long to show only one part of yourself.

"Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager, you are a long way from home." My voice is loud in the empty room.

Federation Starship. Not exactly. Not anymore.

We've realized that Voyager is a world, a culture unto itself. We still cherish Federation ideals and try to live by them. But we're no longer in Alpha Quadrant. Starfleet isn't a reassuring presence on the next planet, the next station. We've started developing our own customs and traditions. We have only each other for support. We're remaking ourselves from a crew into a family. Relationships are being redefined.

Ensign Wildeman's baby was the symbolic beginning. I've already conducted one wedding, Lynch in Stellar Cartography and deHaas in Tactical. Kim and Torres are as happy as clams, arguing through the days and spending the nights together. Chakotay calls them "the peas in the pod." Chakotay....

Perhaps Chakotay and I haven't acted on the feelings our sojourn on New Earth brought to the surface, but we both know our time will come.

Which brings me back to Tom Paris.

Every day, I sit in the center chair, his bright head a constant in my sight. How many times has my gaze settled on him until Chakotay catches my eye and shares a rueful grin? You and me both, Kathryn, that grin says.

Wasn't that a shock, when I realized we shared those feelings, too. But then I realized why. Neither of us can resist a challenge. Building a personal relationship between Captain and First Officer, Starfleet and Maquis, will be difficult enough. Throwing in a third partner as complex as Tom Paris raises the stakes even higher and promises even sweeter rewards.

Assuming, of course, that Tom's interested.

He's interested.

I've felt him watching me. I've seen the way he looks at Chakotay. The way he talks, always the quick jab, the sly response, always pushing buttons. Testing our limits. He wants the other shoe to drop so he doesn't have to wait anymore, wondering how bad it will be.

It doesn't take a ship's counselor to understand why. Start with a childhood dominated by his father. You never lifted a hand against the boy, did you, Admiral? Just showed him in a million unspoken ways that he'd never be good enough, never worthy of love. Toss in his ignominious departures from both Starfleet and the Maquis. Then to cap it all off, a nice, relaxing prison stay.

When I think of what he must have endured in New Zealand I want to kill someone. It's a cold rage and it makes me shake. Every hand against him. Hated by Federation and Maquis alike, despised as an Admiral's pampered son, cursed with a beautiful face and body...

Maybe someday I can tell him how proud I am of him. That attitude of his toward authority -- it was probably like a target on his back. But he survived and still dares the universe with a grin. How can he do it? I know he always expects to be slapped down. He always has been. Used and discarded by everyone who should have protected him.

No wonder he only gets involved with partners like the Delaney sisters. No demands, no commitments and absolutely no control over him, physically, professionally, emotionally.

No wonder he'd never initiate a relationship with me or Chakotay. We'd probably scare him to death even without our ranks.

But he still watches us.

I guess it's up to me then. Oh, well. Rank hath its responsibilities. But first, one of its privileges.

"Computer, is the holodeck being used?"

"The holodeck is not currently in use."

"Restrict access to myself, Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Paris until further notice. Activate program 'Sandrine's'."

"Access restricted and program activated."

"Janeway to Chakotay."

"Chakotay here, Captain."

"Would you care to join me for an evening of pool and conversation at Sandrine's? I'm planning on inviting Tom Paris as well."

The only sound is the barely perceptible hum of the open comm channel for a long moment. Then, "I'll meet you there in fifteen minutes, Kathryn. Chakotay out."

"Janeway to Paris."

"Paris here, Captain."

"Tom, Chakotay and I are spending the evening at Sandrine's. We'd be very pleased if you'd join us."
 

TBC