"Is this too tight?"
Annika tried not to allow her body to shiver when Kathryn's warm breath brushed over the pale flesh of her neck. She was going to have to kill B'Elanna for instigating this torture, that was all there was to it. She carefully released the air she had been holding in order to answer Kathryn Janeway's concerned question.
"No, no it's fine." Annika smiled reassuringly for her own benefit more than Kathryn's since the other woman couldn't see her expression. Kathryn's arms that were encircled around her torso weren't discomforting from anything painful, no it was the pleasure Annika was receiving that made her uneasy despite her next words. "You could, uh, even hold on a little tighter if you want to."
"Oh, yes?" Kathryn's voice dropped down a few octaves the huskiness of it not lost on Annika in the least. "How's this?"
Annika couldn't stop the gasp that left her when Kathryn's hold tightened around her lower abdomen and around her shoulders, the headmistress' fingers felt almost possessive on her body. Annika liked it.
The training room and B'Elanna were suddenly replaced by the guest bedroom as Annika felt Kathryn's hold loosen before long, tapered fingers began to travel across her body. The material of the plum-colored suit wasn't especially thick and Annika gasped and arched into the touch that Kathryn paid her acutely aroused body. Annika knew Kathryn was also aroused by the way the woman moaned into her blonde hair and the wet kisses placed on the back of her neck. Kathryn's lips were suddenly gone and Annika would have groaned in frustration if she wasn't being pushed down onto the soft sheets of her bed by a woman whose blue eyes were dark with desire.
"Kathryn." Annika propped herself up on her elbows and grinned as she watched the other woman move onto the bed with her. "Do you know how much I want you?"
"I know." Kathryn positioned herself between Annika's legs and began to peel apart the mesh of the plum material though her eyes never left the icy blue of Annika's heated gaze. "I feel it too."
Annika's lips were captured in a kiss while her naked torso was pressed tightly against the lithe woman positioned above her. Kathryn's fingertips brushed against the flat of Annika's stomach which caused the muscles below the pale skin to contract for she knew where that hand was traveling. Annika moaned deep in the back of her throat in anticipation. The feather-light touch against her skin was becoming a sweet sort of torture, which made Annika writhe beneath Kathryn's hands.
"Please." Annika's voice was soft, near-pleading.
"Patience." Kathryn's voice was low and teasing as her fingers lingered upon the smooth skin beneath Annika's navel.
"Give the poor girl what she wants, Kat." The male voice that caused Kathryn's body to freeze and her eyes to go wide was harsh and filled with contempt. Kathryn Janeway had never heard those tones from the man while he had been alive.
Annika vanished beneath her as the environment around Kathryn shifted seamlessly to an expansive meadow, Kathryn finally felt strong enough to face the man she had loved with such a complete abandonment that she had nearly lost herself when he had been taken from her. Murdered... viciously before her eyes.
"Justin." Kathryn's petite form shook almost as much as her voice. She felt a bombardment of guilt hit her as if she were somehow betraying him by being with Annika, even in the dream world.
"Not even a peck on the cheek for your dead fiancée?" He held his arms out in offering, but quickly dropped them when he knew she wouldn't be accepting his embrace anytime soon. He smiled derisively at her. His grin was unkind, but Kathryn didn't look away. "You know, you didn't have to stop the show on my account. I was enjoying myself."
"Stop it. Now." Janeway's eyes narrowed, her jaw tightened and her hands went to her hips. The hardened stance against this façade of her fiancée was put on for her benefit rather than his. She knew he wasn't going to be intimidated by her. He never was and that was one of the reasons she had been so attracted to him in the first place.
"All right, Kat." He moved closer to her, his breath wafted hotly across her ear as he bent his head to whisper the next words. "On to the main event."
Kathryn was suddenly strapped into a simple bucket seat of a commercial airplane. The gray-blue chair seemed harmless enough but for the next few moments it would be her prison, her hell. "Please. Don't!"
"See, Katie-bug, it's not so scary being up in the sky like birds now is it?"
Kathryn watched as the eleven-year-old she had been nodded obediently at her father's words, but the swishing of her sneakered feet and legs indicated quite clearly that she didn't actually agree.
"This is the pilot, we're experiencing some turbulence, please remain in your seats and keep your seatbelts fastened for your safety. Thank you."
Kathryn felt hot breath against her neck as Justin leaned in close to her. There was a grotesque parody of a smile on his lips as he whispered into her ear. "What's wrong, Kat? Afraid to fly?"
Kathryn ignored Justin's cruel voice as she became entranced with the little girl with red hair in two long braids. The abundance of freckles bespoke the little girl's long hours in the Indiana sun playing in her parents' fields and hiding from her little sister beneath a large oak tree near the small man-made pond on the outskirts of her parent's property. She'd often go there and read, would lose herself for hours in stories of mythical creatures and epic heroes. Kathryn Janeway knew the little girl would never be back to that old oak tree again.
Kathryn watched the child she had been who was not crying but the onslaught of fear caused the small body to tremble uncontrollably and her eyes to shut tightly in a futile attempt to not experience the reality of where she was. Kathryn wished she could close her eyes and shutout this remembrance but she couldn't. She tried to look away. To not have to watch what was going to happen. The inevitability of where her dreams would always take her. No matter how pleasantly they might begin. Every time she slept, dreamt, she would end up at this point in time. The worst moment of her life would replay itself and there was nothing she could do to prevent the painful memories from emerging.
In reality it had happened so fast, in what seemed like a blink of an eye the plane had gone down. But in her dream world she was given no such mercy. The death of her family was experienced as if in slow motion thus her guilt had ample time to really marinate.
Screams filled the cabin of the plane and Kathryn could see it wasn't just the red-headed child named Kathryn Janeway who shook uncontrollable. The lights flickered sporadically as orange breathing masks and bags dropped from compartments in the ceiling. Those who fitted the masks over their noses and mouths only had false comfort for they were surely going to die anyways. And a part of them knew it.
Kathryn watched as her beloved father looked upon the glowing little girl seated next to him with horror etched onto his features.
"What are you...?"
Edward Janeway's voice was cut off by the loud crying of his youngest daughter as she clutched desperately to his wife. Phoebe's cries and screams mixed with the cacophony that filled the cabin of the doomed plane. Not even the bright glowing of one small girl could distract the passengers from their realization that these were their last seconds to live.
"I'm sorry." Kathryn echoed her dream self's words, but years of remorse made her sentiment that much more earnest and tragic.
Edward held his wife and youngest daughter close to him with one arm securely around both of them. His other hand was extended out to the now blinding specter that blazed golden, his little Goldenbird, as she floated in the air in front of them.
Kathryn tried not watch as the crying girl reached out to touch her father's hand but the blast of the collision tore them away from one another. The fiery child was expelled from the plane altogether as it broke apart and was sent straight for the unforgiving ground in a thunderous blaze.
Suddenly Kathryn was with her younger self, alone in a grassy meadow strewn with fragments of the plane surrounding them. The energy bubble was now gone as the little girl rose shakily to her feet.
"I'M SORRY!" The traumatized child screamed it as loudly as she could, but no one was left to hear it.
Kathryn Janeway awoke abruptly at her desk in her dark office. Fog clouded her mind though she had no doubt as to what she had just dreamt about. Her family. She had killed them. She took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths in an attempt to ward off the pain that gripped her chest and made sweat form on her brow. As she stood shakily from her desk bits and pieces of her dream came back to her. She blushed hotly and felt incredibly indecent at what her subconscious had initially created. Images of a half-naked Annika Hansen invaded her mind's eye. Then the cruel image of Justin replaced that of Annika and Kathryn felt coldness pass over her. She always dreamt of that horrible plane crash, but she had never dreamt of Justin in such a malicious form before. It was so unlike the man she had loved she wondered how any part of her mind could conjure such a grotesque representation. She worried about what her subconscious was trying to tell her with such an image of her fiancée. She suspected it had something to do with her ever-constant companion: guilt.
The breezy evening air helped clear Kathryn's head as she floated from her office window high into the night sky; her thoughts on that dream version of Justin. It had been nine years since Justin had been killed and that was perhaps a long time to still be attached to a dead man, but Kathryn hadn't loved anyone after Justin had died. Perhaps she hadn't allowed herself to. Was she prepared to now? With Annika? She had told herself she wouldn't even allow such a thought to be entertained. She was through with love. Love, Kathryn thought disdainfully, what did she know about love anyway? All the people she had ever truly loved were dead.
Kathryn wasn't ready to admit that what she felt for Annika instantly in her office upon first meeting her was so very similar to what she had experienced when she had met Justin Tighe for the first time. Attraction, overwhelming and frightening in how powerful it swept over her in an instant. It hadn't happened often in her life. Once, perhaps twice but now that Annika had captivated her with such ease Kathryn knew what her body was telling her even if her mind wasn't ready to accept it. She wouldn't allow her careful control be compromised by anyone. The tingling in her fingers be damned.
Annika and Justin were shaken from her thoughts as Kathryn instead turned her attention to the dark figures far below her. Her lips curled up only slightly as she took in the large wolf and the bat-like figure flying low beside it as they traveled the outskirts of the Voyager campus. She had an urge to join them, but they didn't require her and so she maintained her high altitude. Kathryn had known earlier in the day that Chakotay would undoubtedly take Icheb under his wing. She just hoped that together perhaps they could both learn to fully accept their forms. They were both oblivious to how beautiful Kathryn thought they were. She supposed it wouldn't help them to know her own opinion since the great majority of the population would see them as monstrous rather than majestic. Despite the negativity of that assumption she still held onto hope that someday humans and metahumans would find peace with one another, to put aside their fear and resentment. She wondered if she would be alive to see that day. She just hoped that the work she was doing now would help expedite such a social change.
Kathryn knew the decision made later today in Washington D.C. would either advance the rights of metahumans or make the division between them and humans devastatingly wide. Senator Hayes' proposed Metahuman Registration Act was going before Congress in just a little over nine hours. The Act would require all metahumans by law to identify themselves to the government: their names and powers would be put on file. Janeway knew the Act wasn't as innocuous as it seemed on the surface. Every metahuman on U.S. soil would be subjected to tests to determine if they posed a threat to public safety, Janeway figured a great many of them would be considered an acute threat. To think the government would just allow those with great power, like herself, to roam freely was naïve and dangerous. Those like her would be imprisoned, killed, or worse... recruited.
"We're the greatest threat humans have ever known, Kathryn." Quinn's words came to her and she felt regret clutch tightly at her chest that she couldn't prevent him from taking his own life despite his great desire to do so. "The government feared me so much they had me locked away for half of my life. And when they did that, they were saying that the individual's rights will only be protected only so long as they don't conflict with the state. Nothing is so dangerous to a society."
Not for the first time since Quinn's death, Kathryn wished he was still with her. She had come to rely on his wisdom in the years she had known the soft-spoken man whose demons were buried deep beneath a veneer of a mild temperament and kind demeanor. After Reykjavik though, his demons came out once again and he had destroyed himself rather than allow his powers to overcome him and harm the people he cared about. Reykjavik, Janeway shrugged away her own demons regarding that place as she descended from sky.
Kathryn inputted her entry code into the skylight that led to her apartment. The lights of her quarters automatically activated as she made her way to the hidden compartment in the corner of her spacious, but sparsely furnished bedroom. A four-poster bed occupied the space by the large bay windows. The night stand next to the bed held a single mission style glass lamp with a bronze base and a tattered and much loved edition of Dante's Inferno upon it. And a dark mahogany desk and chair set were the only objects in the room until Kathryn released a portion of the wall with her next command.
"Computer, release regeneration alcove. Authorization code: Janeway Pi One One Zero." Kathryn divested herself of her blue silk shirt and dark navy skirt as a panel of the wall pushed in before it slide to the right side and the dark metal construct emerged.
It was a secret piece of machinery that only two other people knew about. One of the people who had such knowledge was dead and the other was Tuvok. She knew her confidence wasn't misplaced in the man for he was aware of many private things about her and would never divulge any of them to another living soul. And Regina had known about it because she had facilitated greatly in its construction.
Janeway's nakedness was soon covered in a tight black outfit with thin wires running through the material. She stepped up onto the platform before she turned so that she was facing outward. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and prepared herself for the two-hour regeneration cycle.
The disc above Janeway's head suddenly glowed a bright green color after a transparent aluminum barrier was erected in order to contain the immense energy the alcove was now emitting. All of which was being efficiently absorbed by a now unconscious and rigidly standing woman who had just the ghost of a smirk on her lips. For this rejuvenating sleep was dreamless.
"I am going to kill, B'Elanna!" Frustrated, Annika kicked the sheets away from her. "That's what I'm going to do!"
Annika had been lying awake for the last hour replaying her non-powered combat training with Kathryn Janeway that had ended over thirteen hours ago. She still felt the effects of it. Annika could almost feel the softness of Janeway's curves and firmness of her trim physique pressed against her back, the other woman's strong arms around her torso, and Janeway's warm breath against the back of her neck. Annika wasn't naïve or stupid enough to think B'Elanna hadn't known and garnered a great amount of sadistic glee from repeatedly making Janeway and Annika redo the same defense move. She just hoped Janeway hadn't been aware of how acutely aware her body had been with each point of contact it had with her form.
Annika bit her bottom lip and groaned low in the back of her throat as she attempted to calm her aroused body. She might have thought it interesting how a simple remembrance of Janeway's touch could provoke such a reaction if she wasn't so frustrated by it and guilt-ridden. Her hands wanted to ease the pressure that had begun to build increasingly at each memory of Janeway's hands on her body, the husky voice in her ear, and the press of the other woman's body against her own. Annika wanted release, but she refrained due to the complete impropriety of it. It was one thing to have dreams about Kathryn Janeway, it was quite another to actively draw up a sexualized image of the woman to satisfy her own lustful purposes. So, instead Annika tore off her oversized t-shirt as she moved on unsteady feet to the bathroom.
"Oh damn!" The cold water didn't exactly relieve Annika of her carnal thoughts though it did make her body feel punished for her mind's actions.
After a few more minutes of enduring the icy shower, Annika decided she had been scolded quite enough, so she turned the water to a more acceptable temperature and scrubbed herself clean with a washcloth and citrus and ginger root body wash. She turned the taps off before she pulled a large purple towel around her body and stepped out of the shower. She dried off in the bathroom before she walked to the bedroom to dress in a pair of maroon colored Capri pants and a black v-neck t-shirt. As she tied her damp her into a loose ponytail she looked at the clock and groaned. 5:25.
When Annika had awoken from a heated dream starring a certain headmistress at around three she had hoped sleep wouldn't elude her so successfully. But now that she was showered, had clothes on, and could see sun beginning to peek in through the curtains she resigned herself to the fact that she was awake for the day.
Annika started the coffee maker as she wondered if anyone would be in the holodeck this early in the morning. The ding of the microwave alerted her that her cream of rice hot cereal bowl was ready for her immediate consumption. She ate the cereal while she padded barefoot around the still dimly lit flat. Annika peered out the window in hopes of seeing a glimpse of the woman who had an uncanny ability to unnerve her, though in the most pleasant of ways. After watching the empty skies lit in reds and gold by the rising sun, Annika figured Janeway was probably nestled snugly in her bed. Annika wished she could have such a peaceful night's sleep, but alas thoughts of the evil doings of anti-metahuman groups and the lustful images of Kathryn Janeway who her subconscious decided to conjure up made restful slumber a thing of the past. She placed the empty black plastic bowl in the recycler, and then filled a metal thermos with freshly made coffee. Annika pulled on a pair of comfortable black ballet flats before she left the flat, thermos in hand.
The campus was unsurprisingly empty as Annika made her way quietly from the guest dormitories to the main building where the holodeck was housed. She watched the lights whizz by as she rode the turbolift to the subterranean facilities. The doors opened with what sounded suspiciously like a deeply satisfied sigh before Annika stepped into the metal lined hallway. She knew from Lyndsay's tutorial regarding the grounds that there were plenty of "public" holoprograms she could run and being somewhat of a holo-enthusiast she couldn't wait to see what sort of programs had been created. The large, metal doors to the holodeck opened to allow her entry and Annika felt instant disappointment wash over when she saw that it was already in use. Sandrine's.
Annika's icy gaze swept the small French bistro that held what she assumed were holographic characters for she did not recognize any of them. "Hello?"
"Hey, you're up early." Tom Paris grinned before he bent over the pool table to take his shot. He smiled even brighter when the black ball rolled obediently into the side pocket.
"Couldn't sleep." Annika shrugged and returned the smile of greeting as she took a seat at one of the bar stools set near the pool tables. "It's like my mind won't turn off."
"Is that coffee I smell?" Tom set his cue on the table before he made his way to the high table where Annika was seated with the now open metal thermos. "Don't tell me we have another addict in the house."
Annika smiled and tried not to blush since she knew perfectly well who the other coffee addict was. "Would you like some?"
"Nah, don't touch the stuff." Tom took a hearty drink from his tumbler filled with an amber-colored liquor. "Bad for your health, you know."
"So, they say." Annika took a sip from her small mug and smiled as the hot, black liquid traveled swiftly down her throat.
"Definitely an addict." Tom took the bar stool opposite of Annika and leaned his back against one of the wooden posts that held the ceiling up. He took another drink from his glass.
"Why are you up so early?" Annika couldn't explain it, but she felt camaraderie with the man. There was an underlying goodness to Tom Paris despite his sometimes brash, puerile behavior.
"The wolf at the door." Tom shrugged in an attempt to look laid-back as he took in Annika's bemused look. "Bad dream I guess."
"Tommy, aren't ya gonna introduce me to your dame here?"
Tom ignored Gaunt Gary's rather salacious tone and smiled rather guiltily at Annika, especially since her eyebrow was raised and her lips turned into a knowing smirk. "Computer, delete characters."
"Why am I not surprised you programmed that guy?" Annika crossed her arms over her chest, her voice teasingly condemning.
"Me? Hey, that guy's really like that." Tom wondered if his innocent expression was convincing her. He suspected from her eye roll that it wasn't. "So, I heard B'Elanna worked you pretty hard after Harry and I left."
"Are you honestly moving your eyebrows up and down at me?" A snort escaped Annika before she smirked broadly at the unrepentant man before her.
"I just heard you had a little one-on-one with the captain that's all." Tom kept his eyebrows under control this time, but couldn't help but smirk knowingly at the now blushing woman.
"I'm going to kill B'Elanna." Despite her words, Annika smiled with good-humor. Sure she was embarrassed that now Tom knew her badly concealed secret, but she could tell from his bright blue eyes alight with mirth that he; like Lyndsay, Kes, and B'Elanna before him, didn't pose any threat to her. She realized with a start that perhaps Janeway already knew her feelings.
"Don't worry." Tom almost laughed at the fearful expression on Annika's face. "She's pretty oblivious. Trust me. I know from experience."
"I'm surprised. It's not like you exactly keep it a secret." Annika hadn't meant to say that and was glad that Tom just took another drink and shrugged nonchalantly.
"Yeah, but she doesn't take me seriously or anything." Tom didn't know if he regretted that fact or not.
"Maybe... because you don't want her to." Annika blamed her lack of sleep and the infusion of caffeine that made every thought that popped in her head fall out of her mouth. "Sorry."
"Don't be." Tom wasn't sure why, but he couldn't feel defensive with Annika. Nor was he inclined to shield the truth from her under his usual smartass comments. And he had to admit, he never really considered that was what he intended with his over-the-top flirtation. "You're probably right."
Annika wondered why she didn't feel jealous. Perhaps it was because somehow she knew that if Kathryn Janeway and Tom were two people that were going to have a romantic relationship with one another they probably would have already had it. Tom just didn't seem like the kind of guy to just wait around for things to happen to him. Annika thought that did beg the question though. "Why haven't you told her?"
"I did." Tom shook his head and smirked ruefully. He held his hands up almost apologetically in his defense. "What can I say? We were alone on a mission. The Alpha Flyer was shot down. I was badly injured. Thinking I was going to die made me a little more honest than I wanted to be."
Tom remembered how Janeway's expression had turned from concern regarding the amount of blood pooling within his body due to his side wound to such a perfect picture of shock he had almost laughed. He was taken out of his reverie by Annika's question that he asked her to repeat.
"What happened?" Annika's icy blue eyes were wide. She had never seen Tom Paris blush.
"I'll tell you, but first... I need another drink."
"Hang on, Tom, that's an order!" Kathryn Janeway lowered the injured man to the gray floor of the Alpha Flyer as gently as she could.
The side wound Tom had suffered from a piece of shrapnel from the EPS conduit when it had exploded upon impact was serious. Janeway worried that her distress call hadn't been sent out before the power grid had shutdown due to their crash.
"Don't you... know by now...?" Tom coughed and looked confusedly at his bloodied fingers that came away from his mouth. "I don't follow... orders?"
"Well, you're following this one." Janeway smiled reassuringly before she went to the storage closet to get a medkit.
Her broken leg made it a slower trek than she would have liked, but she managed to get the gray container with a white caduceus printed upon it and shuffled her way back to Tom's prone form. With a stifled groan she seated herself next to Tom's left side with her broken leg outstretched. Janeway opened the medical tricorder and ran the small cylindrical probe that blinked red along Tom's form. Her creased brow indicated to Tom that the news wasn't particularly good.
"What's... the diagnosis, Doc?" Tom tried to smile past the pain but it came out more like a grimace.
"You have internal bleeding, Tom." Janeway rested a gentle hand on his shoulder as her gaze was fixed on his sweaty face despite how he shivered as if he was cold. She knew if the aft section hadn't been blown apart by weapon's fire from the Orion Syndicate's vessel she could have at least tried to stabilize Tom's condition. Now all she had was a medkit. Frustration fired heat through her body and she fought back the hot tears that formed in her eyes. "I can... I'm going to give you something for the pain. Then I'm going to try to get us some help."
Before she could place the hypospray against Tom's neck he grasped her wrist. "Please... don't leave."
"I have to, Tom. We have no idea where we crashed and we don't have anything here that can help you." Janeway tried to remove Tom's grip on her wrist, but was stopped when his free hand descended upon her injured leg. Her eyes went wide and she held back her gasp of pain despite how her expression displayed it clearly. His touch had been gentle enough but the hot jolt of pain had shot through her anyways.
"You can't go... anywhere. You're hurt." Tom quickly removed his hand from her leg regretful that he had caused her pain. His right hand still held tightly on to hers. "I-I've thought about this moment... for a long time."
"What do you mean?" Janeway brought her face closer to Tom's quieting voice.
"Alone. With you. Where I could... tell you the truth." Tom's voice became raspy and he held down the cough that would have caused more blood to spill from his mouth. "You... saved me."
"No. Please... listen, just listen. When you... came and got me... in New Zealand. I was nothing. Some... criminal who would do anything... a mercenary selling myself... out to anyone... who would pay my bar bill." Tom's voice was soft but earnest as he now held her slim hand in both of his. "I know I wasn't... much help... in Iceland, but... you still let me... stay. I was so... thankful. I wanted... to make you... proud of me."
"I am." Kathryn's free hand, shaky though it was, brushed sweat soaked blond hair away from Tom's forehead. "Tom, let me give you something for the pain."
"No!" Tom shook his head as he pulled her hand so that it rested against his chest. "I need to... say this. Please. I wanted you... to be proud of me. I wanted to be... become someone... you could... love."
Kathryn Janeway's expression was a perfect representation of shock before she regained her composure and her voice. "Tom, I-"
"Don't... have to say... anything. Just... wanted you... to know."
This time Tom couldn't hold back the cough that expelled blood onto his chin, thankfully he moved his hands and hers away before any red fluid transferred onto her pale skin. After his coughing fit was through, Janeway helped lower his head back to the makeshift pillow of folded blankets. Shakily she pressed her lips against his damp forehead. At the same time the hiss of the hypospray indicated that she hadn't heeded his request.
"Rest. I'll be right back."
Tom's eyes fluttered, but he could still see her lift herself into the air and out of the wreckage of the Alpha Flyer. Her name, pleading for her to return, was on his lips as darkness swept over him and took all the pain away.
"Do I look like your mother, Mr. Paris?" Doctor Zimmerman's expression was incredulous as he moved away from the communications panel on the wall to stand at the foot of the occupied biobed.
Tom smirked as he propped himself up on his hands. The pain in his side was a thing of the past. "She has a little more hair, Doc."
"Hmph." Zimmerman rolled his eyes before his attention was drawn to the opening door. "He's back to his normal, charming self."
"I think the doc might have a crush on me." Tom smiled past his embarrassment at what he had confessed in the crashed shuttle as he watched Kathryn Janeway approach his bed.
With no response to that, the doctor rolled his eyes, nodded once to Janeway, and then left the recovery room grumbling under his breath.
"Don't tease the doctor too much. He did just save your life." Janeway let her hands rest gently on top of the end of the biobed. Her blue gaze never left Tom's uncharacteristically embarrassed expression. "Tom-"
"I'm sorry." Tom's light blue eyes shifted away to look at a random spot on the gray wall before he brought his eyes bravely back to her. "I shouldn't have said what I did."
Kathryn seemed to think about that for a moment before she responded neutrally. "Was it the truth?"
"Yes." Tom couldn't lie as much as he might have wanted to. She deserved his honesty. "I'm... I love you, Captain."
"I see. 'Captain'... that's become my name hasn't it?" Janeway moved closer to Tom's reclined from. She seated herself on the biobed next to his left thigh covered by a blue blanket. "Tom, I won't tell you that what you're feeling isn't real. But... I'm not certain that who you're feeling them for is actually real. I didn't save you. You certainly have my respect and I am proud of you, but you don't need my approval. You're a good man, not because of me, but because that is who you are who you've always been despite your past. We all have a past. What matters is now."
Tom nodded solemnly as he allowed her words to truly sink in. He understood what she was saying. She was telling him no. Surprisingly he wasn't shattered at her response. He supposed a part of him had always known she wasn't for him. Tom was actually relieved he had told her. A weight he didn't know he was carrying was suddenly lifted, nearly completely. He grinned evilly as his bright blue eyes found hers. "What if I told you I just had the hots for you?"
Janeway's full-bodied laugh caused Tom to smile broadly before he too laughed aloud.
"I'd say go take a cold shower, Mr. Paris." Her smile was toothy and lit up her elegant features despite the seriousness in her voice.
"Aye, Captain." Tom's expression was still bright but his voice was earnest. "Thanks by the way. You saved my life out there."
"Your life wouldn't have needed saving if it hadn't been for me." Janeway's voice was purposefully kept light, but Tom detected something more serious beneath the surface.
"Hey, you had no way of knowing the OS would catch wind that we'd be out there." Tom knew Janeway was prone to feelings of guilt and he didn't want to add any more weight to the overburdened woman. "Even the great Captain Janeway can't know everything. Unless omniscience is one of your abilities."
Janeway smiled and nodded her head appreciatively. "It's not."
"Are you okay? I know you were injured in the shuttle crash too." Tom recalled with a sliver of painful regret how he had touched her broken leg so indelicately.
"Me?" Janeway slim shoulders shrugged. "Oh, I'm fine."
"I bet you'd say that if you'd just had your legs torn off by a bear." His hand covered her own, hesitantly at first, but she didn't remove his hand so he maintained the contact.
"Probably." Slowly, Janeway got to her feet and carefully removed her hand from his hold before she rested it on his shoulder. "Get some rest, Tom."
"Aye, Captain." He was asleep again before the door clicked close.
"Tom? What happened in Iceland, in Reykjavik?" Annika watched regretfully as Tom's mirthful grin vanished completely.
"I-you really don't want to know. Believe me." Tom downed the rest of his drink as if in an effort to forget the images his mind had conjured up from hearing that Icelandic name from Annika's lips.
Annika nodded her head as she decided it was far too early in the morning to push anything. "All right."
"Good, good." Tom got back some of his good humor as he stood from the barstool. "Was there something you wanted? Or did you come all the way down here to drink coffee and hear me rambling on."
"I'm a bit of a... holo-geek. I wanted to try out your open database."
"Sure. The safeties are always set." As he said these reassuring words to her he had been walking towards the exit. The large doors appeared and opened upon his "exit" request. "Just shut off the lights when you're done."
Annika returned Tom's smile and watched him leave. Two metal doors closed before they were concealed beneath photons and forcefields. She drank the rest of her coffee before she dropped her feet onto the floor. "Computer, end program."
Sandrine's shimmered before the bistro vanished completely. Annika barely had the reaction time to catch her thermos before it hit the ground. She moved in a small circle to take in the gray room lined with yellow grids. "Computer, list non-encrypted programs."
The computer's feminine, even voice filled the vast space as a holographic list of programs appeared before Annika in blue writing. "The Adventures of Captain Proton, Beowulf, Julian Bashir, Secret Agent, Dixon Hill series, Henry V, Insurrection Alpha, Jane Eyre, Kahless and Lukara, Moliere plays, Puccini's La Boheme, Queen's Gambit, Sherlock Holmes series, Photons Be Free, The-"
"Computer, show specifications for The Adventures of Captain Proton." Annika had never heard of it, unlike some of the others and she was intrigued by the campy title. Her icy blue eyes went wide as the "specifications" appeared all around her. Her eyes became even wider when she looked down at herself and saw that she was also rendered monochromatically. "Computer, who's the author of this program?"
"I should've known." Annika shook her head as she grinned appreciatively at how creative Tom was in designing a program akin to an old 1930s sci-fi serial. She hoped she would get to fire a ray gun. "List playable characters."
"Captain Proton, savior of the universe. Buster Kincaid, Proton's trusty sidekick. Constance Goodheart, Proton's secretary. Doctor Chaotica, scourge of the free galaxy. Lonzak, Chaotica's lead minion. Satan's Robot, Chaotica's evil robotic creation. "Queen Arachnia, ruler of the nefarious Spider People. The President-"'
"Display Queen Arachnia." Annika watched as the holocharacter shimmered into existence. Even in black and white with over-the-top makeup, a sizable web collar, and a beehive hairdo the villainous woman was still imposing, striking and sexy. And Annika had no doubt as to whom this femme fatale was modeled after.
"Oh, Tom." Annika shook her head as she laughed once out loud as she continued to read the Queen's profile and modus operandi. Apparently Queen Arachnia enjoyed ensnaring prey whether it was male or female, her favorite catch was actually the buxom blonde secretary. The Queen would then use her pheromones to make her captive do whatever she wanted them to do, mostly they would be forced to assist her in conquering the galaxy. Annika suspected that if it wasn't an open program the term "sex slave" would have probably showed up by now. "You are just one big hormone."
Annika confessed that perhaps she was too, because she decided on Chapter 37: "The Web of Pain". The synopsis read that the wicked Queen Arachnia had kidnapped the pure Constance Goodheart and the loyal Buster Kincaid. Captain Proton must rescue his secretary and his best pal before the evil Queen turned them into her unwitting slave. Annika just couldn't decide if she wanted to be Proton or Goodheart since a spoiler she had found hinted at a bit of a tête-à-tête between the hero and the villain.
"If I'm gonna be a superhero, better start now."
Annika touched the floating letters that spelled out Captain Proton. The holographic menu disappeared as the computer's voice complied with her choice. "Initiating."
"Whoa!" Annika looked down at her shimmering form as her cotton t-shirt changed into a black leather coat with a small gray panel and a number of dials, nobs, and lights attached to the middle of her chest. Her maroon trousers elongated into light colored pants and calf-high leather boots. Annika adjusted the goggles that had appeared over her eyes so that they were now resting above her bangs. The last piece of costume the computer added was a metal construct that formed on her back. It was light enough, but still had simulated weight to it so Annika's senses would be fooled. It actually felt like she had something solid and real on her back. Annika craned her neck to look over her shoulder at the curved metal.
Annika touched one of the tubes on the side of the object. "What the hell is this?"
"It's a jet-pack."
"Tom?" Annika swung around to face the man who had just spoken. Sure enough Tom Paris stood in front of her wearing the same garb.
"Actually, I'm the help menu to Tom's program." Despite merely being a holographic representation Annika thought the smirk looked quite identical to its creator's. "You asked a question. So I'm here to answer it and any others."
"Okay." Annika ignored the hologram's over eager expression as she tried to decide what would benefit her in starting so late in the program. Though if she remembered old scif-fi serials well enough she knew they didn't tend to follow linear plotlines. Despite this Annika figured it wouldn't hurt to see how the last chapter ended. "Can you show me what happened in Chapter thirty-six?"
"Sure!" The hologram of Tom Paris motioned to the huge suspended screen that had just appeared before Annika. The title of the program in huge white letters with lightning flashing dramatically in the background filled the screen. A low, booming voice filled the holodeck as the screen shifted to show the action that had transpired in Chapter thirty-six.
"Last time on the Adventures of Captain Proton! The evil arachnid, Queen Arachnia lured Captain Proton to her web by kidnapping Constance Goodheart, his loyal secretary, and his trusty sidekick, Buster Kincaid!"
Annika burst out laughing when the screen shifted to show Harry Kim tangled in an elaborate, albeit fake looking, web.
"When our fearless hero came to the rescue little did he know that the nefarious Arachnia already had Buster Kincaid under her diabolical control!"
Annika watched with tears forming in her eyes from her mirth as she watched Tom and Harry fight one another accompanied by the occasional "pow" and "bam" and most odd, "zowee". She actually had to look away to regain her composure. A part of her didn't know if she even wanted to participate in the program at all. She garnered a great deal of amusement from just watching this recap. Her mind was made up when Queen Arachnia made her dramatic entrance onscreen.
Annika was captivated, the holopic hadn't done the femme fatale justice. Arachnia moved with grace, power, and with enough of a swagger to show that she was supremely confident. She was the queen after all. The smirk on Arachnia's darkly painted lips was pure evil, campy evil, but evil nonetheless. Annika felt warmed by it; she thought it was sexy as hell.
Queen Arachnia didn't look exactly like Kathryn Janeway. That would have violated about fifteen privacy laws. But the Queen had a similar petite figure, the same piercing eyes, strong chin, and commanding presence. What the hologram lacked the most were Janeway's aloofness, underlying sadness, and professional demeanor. Arachnia was anything but aloof. Annika shifted uncomfortably as if she were watching something truly pornographic that anyone could walk in on rather than merely a rather vague threat given by the villainous character, something about perfume.
"Oh, crap!" Annika had lost herself in imagining Janeway in such a vampy role that she had been taken quite off guard when the program began around her. Suddenly it wasn't Tom tangled in a web, but her. Her entire body froze when long, black nails stroked menacingly along the side of her face.
"You'll be under my complete control soon enough, Proton." Arachnia held Captain Proton's chin in her grasp as she pressed closer to her captive's ear. She smiled wickedly as her breath brushed across Annika's pale neck. "And then you'll be begging me to let you lick my heels. Do you have nothing to say to that?"
Annika honestly didn't. She was trying hard not to laugh at the mugging Archania was presently doing for an unseen audience. Annika also wasn't entirely sure anymore that "sex slave" wasn't going to come up eventually. She wondered how much opposition she should employ to a term she perhaps wouldn't mind with the tantalizing hologram. But in keeping with the feel of the program she struggled out of the Queen's grasp.
"You'll never get away with this, Arachnia!" The corners of Annika's mouth were hurting from trying not to smirk delightedly.
Annika's defiance was rewarded with the hologram's form pressed closely to her own. Her senses couldn't discern that it wasn't a warm body pressed against her and so it sent the appropriate stimulation to every part of her body. If she closed her eyes she could imagine that she was back in that damned training room with Kathryn Janeway's diminutive form pressed tightly against her. She couldn't stifle the moan that emitted from deep in her throat.
"You are wise to tremble in fear!" Arachnia's words were harsh, but her hand that ran across Annika's face and neck was soft, like a lover's. "Don't you know by now, Captain, that resistance is futile?"
"I-I've defeated you before and I'll do it again." Annika's voice came out a little more uncertain than a hero's probably should, but the hologram took no notice of it.
"I see you'll need a little... persuasion!" Arachnia used one sharp, black painted nail to slice apart the webbing that held Annika captive. It was a show of how damaging the Queen's long nails could be and Annika, despite knowing the safeties were set, took note of. "The cradle, my slaves!"
Buster Kincaid and Constance Goodheart moved slowly, but menacingly towards Annika. Their eyes were glazed over as they both said in unison, "Yes, my Queen."
Annika struggled in the grasp of Arachnia's two minions, but to no avail as she was dragged to a metal platform with straps that were soon entrapping her ankles and wrists.
"A little present from Doctor Chaotica." Arachnia's voice didn't hint at the fact that in chapter twenty-seven she had done away with the odious man. Her hand stroked the metallic cone shaped machine positioned above Annika's head. "This device will make you tell me all you know, all I want to know."
"You'll never get away with this!" Annika struggled against the restraints as fervently as she could, but they weren't giving way. She took a deep calming breath as she remembered that there always had to be a climatic ending to each chapter to keep the audiences coming back, but that the hero always managed to get out of any impossible situation. She just couldn't figure out how to yet.
"You have thwarted my plans for domination for far too long, Proton! Now, you are mine." With a laugh that bespoke delight and malevolence Arachnia activated the cradle.
The bright light from the contraption flashed across Annika in quick succession. It didn't hurt at all. At worst it was a little too bright for her eyes. She did act the part of the hero in distress and so she writhed as if in pain atop the platform.
Arachnia's dark lips rose in a vindictive sneer. "Your screams are music to my ears."
Annika didn't hear the hologram's words over the sound of her own screaming that had nothing to do with the holographic simulation.
Bright, green lights flashed across her body and a heavy weight was upon her chest. She couldn't move, she couldn't keep her eyes open, she could hardly breathe and the air she did take in tasted metallic and unsavory. Her throat convulsed in pain as something harsh and solid seemed to take forever to be removed from her through her open mouth. And then she heard a voice that sent chills across her entire body that felt damp and boneless.
"Program ended due to irregular biometric readings. Alerting Sickbay."
The unconscious, convulsing Annika Hansen didn't hear the computer's voice as she fell deeper into the darkness of green lights and metallic tastes.
Annika was lost in the green tinted reality she was experiencing. Gone were her thoughts of the holodeck, Arachnia, Janeway, and Voyager. Annika's mind was otherwise occupied with the viscous substance that surrounded her suspended naked body. She couldn't speak, but oddly enough she could breath. When she did a flood of metallic flavored liquid made her gag and convulse at the unpleasant taste. Even with her eyes pressed tightly closed blinding flashes of light created stars to appear beneath her eyelids. Out of the fog of her mind she could hear a muffled voice of a stranger. He sounded anxious.
"Is she waking up?"
"Who-who are you?" Annika begrudgingly opened her eyes only to close them quickly once again to escape the too bright lights of Sickbay. "Doctor?"
"Ah, Ms. Hansen, good to see you with us again." Doctor Zimmerman smiled pleasantly as he pressed a hypospray to Annika's neck.
The pain behind Annika's eyes immediately disappeared after the medicine dispersed through her bloodstream. She opened her eyes once again, this time the lights were tolerable. Annika licked her dry lips before she smiled in thanks when the doctor handed her a small glass filled with cool water and a straw. She set the cup next to her on the bedside table before she pushed herself into a seated position and turned her attention to Doctor Zimmerman.
"We're not exactly sure." Gently, but surely the doctor pushed Annika back down onto the biobed. "The computer notified me forty-seven minutes ago of a medical emergency in Holodeck One. I found you unconscious. What's the last thing you remember?
"I was..." Annika tried not to blush as she thought of Arachnia. "I was playing the Captain Proton simulation. Arachnia had me strapped to some kind of... table."
"The Cradle of Persuasion." Janeway's voice from the open doorway made Annika let out a surprised squeak. The Headmistress smiled apologetically as she made her way closer to the biobed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. I came to see how you were feeling."
"Oh, I-thanks. I feel fine really. Great even. Thanks to the doctor." Annika gave the sometimes brusque man a bright smile and she could have sworn there was a rosy tint to his craggy features.
"Do you know what happened?" The question was directed to the doctor, but Janeway's concerned slate gray eyes never left Annika who attempted with all her might not to squirm under the attention. She felt quite exposed lying in a biobed with nothing but a thin and exposing hospital gown with a blanket atop her legs.
"The computer's reviewing the logs." Doctor Zimmerman held his own personal computer console in his hand which listed nothing out of the ordinary that he could discern yet. "The safeties were on the entire time. But... hmm, this is odd."
"What is it?" Despite the doctor's obvious request that she remain flat on her back, Annika rose into a seated position seemingly in an attempt to see what the doctor and Janeway were looking at on the small monitor that had creased both their brows in such a way. "Is there something wrong with me?"
"You experienced an engram surge. From the strength of these neural readings I'd say it was a repressed memory of some sort... traumatic..." The doctor's voice trailed off uncertainly as he could tell his words were beginning to unnerve Annika. "This high peak right here occurred right before you blacked-out."
Doctor Zimmerman handed his PADD to the nonplused woman and felt a great amount of sympathy for her. It had obviously been a powerful and disturbing memory to cause Annika to faint without any bodily influence.
"Thank you, Doctor."
It was obviously a dismissal so with one last kind look to Annika Doctor Zimmerman complied with Janeway's instruction. The door slid unnoticed behind him.
"Do you... would you like to talk about what you experienced? What you remembered?" Janeway disregarded the fact that she was trying very hard to be objective when it came to very vulnerable looking woman before her.
When the headmistress had been called from her office by Doctor Zimmerman and had been told that Annika had been injured and was now in Sickbay, Janeway had felt a slice of fear cut through her. It had been so strong that she had lost her breath for a moment. That was why, even as she had made her hurried way to Sickbay, she had made a vow to herself. She had no intention of letting Annika get too close to her, to have that sort of power over her, even if Annika did already have a considerable hold on her emotions already. All of which Janeway now hid steadfastly behind a compassionate but composed mask.
"I'm not certain. I heard a-a woman's voice. She said something about... activation." Annika's brow creased as she tried to grasp the evanescent strands of what she had seen and heard after the Cradle of Persuasion had been activated. "I'm not sure what it means. And then I felt like I was in... some sort of liquid. It was too thick to be water. It had a-a metallic flavor, I think. Green, I remember the color green. Does that make any sense?"
"The doctor seems to think you've uncovered a repressed memory."
"But that's crazy. I've never been in any sort of large... vat filled with weird green fluid." Annika's icy blue eyes widened considerably as a thought struck her and ran shivers across her skin. "Do you think I could have been abducted by aliens?"
"Ms. Hansen, I know it's probably... difficult to think about, but we have no idea what you were subjected to before the away team recovered you and Mr. Telfer." Janeway had never heard of the Friends of Humanity or other anti-metahuman groups in possession of vats of anything much less green liquid of some sort, but that didn't mean they didn't. She feared that this could only be the beginning of Annika's recovered memories. And that some were even more disturbing, vicious, and painful.
"Annika." Fear had caused Annika's voice to sharpen so her request for Janeway to use her first name came out as a harsh and frustrated command.
"I'm sorry, of course, Annika." Janeway hadn't taken any offense at Annika's tone. She knew how frightened and confused the other woman must be feeling at this moment so her voice was soft and sympathetic. As Janeway laid a gentle hand on Annika's shoulder her voice and gaze was unwavering and earnest. "We'll get to the bottom of this. You should rest now. You've been through a lot."
Janeway made to leave, but was stopped by Annika's hand around her wrist. A very powerful urge to soothe away the lines of worry etched on Annika's features compelled Janeway to brush a comforting hand across the other woman's forehead and cheek. Janeway smiled tremulously as the scared expression began to fade away.
"You're safe now, Annika." Janeway pulled her hand away from the soft, warm skin. She had no way of knowing that Annika regretted the lack of contact as much as she did.
"I do feel safe. Here." Annika didn't add the 'with you' she would have if she were bolder. She put on a brave façade instead. "I-I don't really... want to be alone."
"I can get Kes, or B'Elanna." Janeway figured she wasn't the one Annika wanted to have comforting her, but she was stopped from leaving once again with a soft, but firm hold on her wrist.
"Please, stay. Just until I..." Annika blushed but she couldn't deny the fear that caused her voice to tremble and for her to make such a bold request. "Until I fall asleep."
Kathryn Janeway's chest ached at the open vulnerability Annika was displaying. The pain and anxiety in her voice cut through Janeway like a knife. She took her seat next to Annika once again. Like her mother had done when she had been a little girl, sick with a cold, Janeway stroked Annika's cheek from hairline to chin gently, softly, tortuously.
"Of course I will."
Annika smiled faintly before she fell into a deep slumber. Golden strands of hair were brushed away from her smooth, slightly damp forehead by Kathryn's gentle fingers. Kathryn admitted if only to herself that Annika had unlocked something within her she had thought long buried.
Io mi senti' svegliar dentro a lo core.
Kathryn knew Dante's words described perfectly what was transpiring within her for she felt her heart awaken. But as she left the recovery room quietly she knew despite what her heart was feeling regarding Annika, Captain Janeway would never allow what Kathryn wanted so desperately. Something... someone for herself. No, the Captain would never allow such selfishness. So with a soft sigh, Janeway knew despite whatever she felt for Annika she would never allow herself to act on it. Annika deserved someone who could put her first, to love her without distraction, without trepidation, without pain. She wasn't that woman. And for the first time in a long while Kathryn Janeway truly regretted that fact.
"I need to be in D.C." Janeway moved away from Annika's slumbering form as she willed her features to remain neutral as she faced the doctor. "Keep me informed of any changes in Ms. Hansen's condition."
Doctor Zimmerman watched Janeway swiftly depart from the recovery room. His craggy features showed his bemusement as to what was ailing their newest Voyager and equally important what he sensed from the headmistress. If he didn't know the woman better he would have thought he had seen genuine regret in her stormy gray eyes as she left. Sympathy and compassion he would have expected and had detected traces of within her eyes. What he couldn't figure out was why the headmistress would be regretful that she had to leave Annika's bedside?
As the doctor checked over the monitors recording Annika's biometric readings he grumbled to himself about always being out of the loop. If Doctor Zimmerman hadn't been grumbling his discontent he still wouldn't have heard the soft, feminine voice that sounded within the unconscious mind of Annika Hansen. One word: Transfer.
(to be continued)