Although it took me a long while to convince the characters to actually go through with it, this story does have sex in it, and should therefore be removed from the possession of Congressmen and children. Characters belong to Paramount, and the evil imagination to me. Yes, the story does pretend to have a plot, but that's a personal flaw of my own, and not serious artistic pretensions. Read, enjoy and so forth.

Star Trek - Voyager: Even Captains Have Needs (MF)
by Mercutio

She couldn't do anything about it, and in any case, it was a ridiculous desire. He was half her age, or nearly so, young and... well, he wasn't idealistic anymore. And that drew her to him as surely as the woundedness inside him did. But that was silly, very silly. With her own Mark she knew she valued stability and comfort far more than anything else, far more certainly than loyalty overlaid with a bitterness he could never quite conceal.

Paris was quite out of her reach, and Janeway knew it, knew it and hated herself for even wanting it, wanting him. She had won his loyalty by treating him as trustworthy, by giving him the same responsibility as any other member of her crew, when so many people looked at him with scorn. To mistreat that loyalty now would be a crime.

She bit her lip. *Why* was she even *thinking* such things? What was *wrong* with her? She was the captain of this ship, for God's sake, and not some young ensign who could do as she pleased. And Kathryn didn't *want* to be anything else. Responsibility was hers, and she would have taken the responsibility upon herself all over again, because that was the kind of person she was.

But even captains had needs.

* * *

They'd only stopped to see what was happening on the planet, to check, as they always checked even knowing that it was hopeless, to see if these people had any way of sending them home, anything that could help them get there.

Janeway had beamed down with Paris and Tuvok, leaving Chakotay behind to mind the ship, unwilling to disturb him during one of his medicine rituals. Given the circumstances they now found themselves in, that might have been a mistake. But he couldn't have done anything differently, and they would all still be trapped in this desperate situation. And Janeway would not have willingly let someone else suffer in her place.

The aliens, an outwardly human race, had let them beam down, and then captured them, removing their badges before they could take any action. Tuvok had been separated out, and she and Paris had been thrown into a cell. They didn't know why, and they didn't know what had happened, or what would happen.

Paris sat on his bunk, back against the wall, knees drawn up. His posture was elaborately unconcerned, but his face was grim.

Janeway sat on the edge of the bunk facing him. "If only we knew what they wanted."

"What they want? What does anyone want in a set up like this?"

"Ransom, perhaps. We have technology far greater than ours. Perhaps they hope to force Voyager to give them something they can't do for themselves." Janeway sounded almost hopeful about that possibility.

Paris didn't move. "As long as they don't want our bodies."

The grim statement was a reminder of how he, along with B'Elanna Torres and a now deceased crewman had been captured. Janeway felt responsible for that, for not being more aware and for not taking more precautions. A man had died, and she hadn't been able to prevent it. "I don't think they do. But as to what they want, there must have been a reason they separated Tuvok from us."

"They can't have recognized him as a Vulcan."

"True, Mr. Paris."

Before they could speculate further, two of the Halamvids stopped outside the door, dressed in the faceless armor that made them look like something out of ancient Egyptian myth, entirely inhuman.

Paris tensed, and Janeway stopped him with a look. "No, Mr. Paris." She turned to the men. "I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the..."

"Silence!" The man raised his arm threateningly, but didn't strike her.

Janeway wasn't deterred by the possibility of violence. Things far more important than her safety were at stake. "I must speak with your leader. I have much to say that could be of..."

This time the man gave no warning, bringing the blunt end of his weapon sharply down.

Before she could react, Paris was there in front of her. He took the blow, and went down. The last thing she saw was his unconscious body being dragged off before a heavy thud descended on her as well and she went mercifully out before the pain could reach her.

* * *

She awoke in nothingness, aware of nothing, unable to tell she was conscious at all aside from a feeling somehow that this was reality whether or not her senses agreed. Kathryn had heard of total sensory deprivation, but had never been exposed to it.

Now she wished that could still be true. She could see nothing; it was as dark with her eyes open as closed. She could hear nothing, not even her own breathing. She couldn't feel, and that was the worst of all. No matter how often she closed her eyes, or enjoyed the brief blessing of silence, she could never escape feeling. Her skin, her hands, every part of her was constantly feeding kinesthetic input back to her brain. That was gone too. It was as if she were a disembodied brain, as if these unknown aliens had dissected her, taken her brain out, somehow leaving it alive, and left it on a shelf somewhere to descend into insanity.

The possibility was high, given the kinds of things the Voyager had already encountered in this quadrant so far from home, and as soon as Janeway thought of the idea, it overwhelmed her with panic. She tried kicking, tried screaming, but it was useless. There was nothing there with her but her own thoughts.

She tried to regain control of herself, and for a moment succeeded. She was a captain after all; she hadn't gotten this far to succumb to hysteria. When the Voyager had first been flung here, she had remained calm, in control, despite the gruesome deaths of many of her crew. This was no worse.

And yet it was. The mind depended on the constant stimuli it was required to sort. It could overload with too much, causing negative and antisocial reactions, but too little was far, far worse. There was literally nothing for her mind to do but think, and Kathryn was not equal to the task.

Slowly, very slowly, she began to crumble.

* * *

This wasn't the first attempt at breaking Paris. Nor the second. Or even the fifty-second. As brittle as he looked, he didn't break. The bleak truth Paris hugged to himself even as he feared it was that it was impossible to break something that had already been ground down into sand.

* * *

She couldn't isolate when the change occurred. After so long trapped inside that awful place, coming out into the open was like being dropped into the warp core of a starship. Sensory overload, sights, sounds, sensations, all too raw and powerful for her to handle. She couldn't walk, couldn't move on her own, and a short, although terrifying time later she was dumped back into her cell.

Warm hands cradled her head. "Captain? Are you... all right?"

The sound was too much for her and she almost sobbed. She couldn't focus on anything, everything was overwhelming her after that brief, endless, time isolated with her own thoughts.

Paris stayed where he was, slumped against the wall, wanting to pull his hand away, to regain some control, but he couldn't. He needed the contact too much at the moment, even as he wished he didn't have that weakness, knew that *she* was the wrong person to have a weakness in front of or for. Not that the captain would say anything. She was far too honorable and just a person for that. She *looked* at him, and that was all, and more than enough. She'd never mention that he'd taken a liberty, never dress him down for it, and for that he respected her. None of his previous commanders, no one he knew in the current Starfleet, somewhere back in the Alpha Quadrant, would ever extend Tom Paris even so much as a moment's leniency. And for that reason alone he had to stop this. He had to be more than he was for her, because she did trust him, because no one else would. He drew his hand away and set it in his lap, using all the self-control no one believed that wild Tom Paris had.

They laid there in silence for a long while, Janeway huddled in a fetal ball, Paris crumpled by her head. That silence was filled with sensory input, the little noises of breathing, of ventilation shafts and power thrumming at a distance, the dank smell of the prison and the air moving against them.

"They're trying to break us," Janeway said into the silence, not moving. She knew she had to, wanted to in order to restore her dignity, but she couldn't.

"Yes," Paris said. "At least they're professionals," he said, striving for a light tone, and failing.

"Yes," Janeway said, in dark agreement. She levered herself up on shaking arms, bringing herself up face to face with Paris, inches away from him.

They froze in place for a moment, neither one moving. The distance was so short, and both of them were in a vulnerable state. The uncertainty on Paris' face was matched by the shattered expression of Janeway's.

She pulled away, turning away from him to tuck her hair back into place, the small action giving her time to put her emotional facade back into place as well. She had to be strong. She was the captain. If she fell to pieces, she was neglecting her responsibility to Paris.

When she finished, she turned back around, seating herself neatly at the end of the bunk, but not offering to move to the other one on the opposite side of the room. "I don't know what they want. They've made no demands."

Paris looked up at the ceiling as if the rock were more yielding than their captors. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse. "They want to break us."

"But why?"

He looked at her, and his eyes were bitter. "Why not? They don't need a reason."

She would have asked him why, but his manner was clear, and she knew enough of his history not to press him. She settled back against the bunk, planning. There was nothing she could do; she was trapped and she had no control of the situation. It was a frustrating, horrible helpless thing for someone of her nature to be, and yet she didn't give into despair. There had to be a way. There was always a way.

* * *

When the Halamvids came again, Janeway and Paris tried a sneak attack. It didn't work. They were efficiently clubbed and dragged off to be mindwashed again.

Paris regained consciousness in the darkness. *Again*, he thought to himself. *It's happening again.* Grim hopelessness washed through him. He had already given up. He would have begged now if anyone had wanted him to, had done so many times before for a variety of different torturers, all of whom thought him to be scum. It didn't matter anymore. Begging meant nothing to him. The only thing he had left to him at the end of what he'd come through was his pride, and not even much of that.

He didn't know how much longer he could stand this. He wanted to give in, but there was no one to give in *to* and he was holding onto nothing, aware of nothing, and only that voice in his head was telling him he was alive at all.

* * *

This time she would not give in. Janeway tried to feel confident. It wasn't as if she were being physically tortured. Her body was all right, and her brain wasn't being removed as she had feared the last time. This was a cynical exercise on the part of a people who hadn't even made their demands yet. She was all right. This was only the removal of sensory stimulus. She could survive this.

She tried to concentrate, to pull her thoughts around herself and meditate, but her mind kept wandering to the loss of its sensory inputs, like a tongue to the site of a missing tooth. Even as she tried to focus on her spirit animal as Chakotay had taught her, or on the endless and shortening inventory lists for Voyager, her mind was pulled away. She'd never developed the mental disciplines, and now she regretted that as her conscious mind slipped out of her grasp, retreating even faster than it had the day before into that shadowy chasm where sanity was not and her thoughts mixed with dreams.

* * *

This time she screamed when they brought her out, and continued to scream long past the point when her throat was raw. They ignored it, dumping her back in the tiny cell. Janeway didn't care, only noticed the lack of motion as one less disturbing input to deal with and began to cry shamelessly, uncaring that the Halamvids might be listening in, that Paris might be there.

The void had opened up before her and she had been sucked under, had been unable to prevent herself from being dragged in. Her own weaknesses had betrayed her, and she didn't know if she were crying because of her own vulnerability or because of how good it felt to be back in the real world again, to have scratchy fabric under her chin and a firm surface under her.

The tears were more cathartic than she knew; her own image of herself, tattered as it was at the moment, reasserted itself, and she sat up, scrubbing at her eyes, trying to pull herself together. *You're a captain, damnit. Behave yourself.*

She looked around the cell. Paris wasn't there. The Halamvids hadn't brought him back yet. She was grateful he hadn't seen that little lapse of control; she wasn't ashamed of it, however she was nonetheless grateful. On the other hand, she was concerned about him. Why had they kept him longer? Had they started other, worse tortures on him?

She leaned back against the wall, keeping the door in sight, still struggling to bring her mind and body back under her control. She had enough left to keep from sobbing in hysteria, but that was all. She was white and visibly shaking. She didn't know if she'd survive another time in that chamber of horrors. She didn't have a choice.

Some time later, an eternity in a place without chronometers, but still less time than in that deprivation chamber, Paris was carried in like a sack of grain and dumped on the bed. The Halamvids left, inhuman visages always alert despite her current inability to do anything.

"Captain," Paris said weakly. He was lying on his side on the opposite bunk, too shattered to move. He opened his eyes and looked at her.

"Yes, Tom, I'm here."

"I always said... ladies first."

She smiled at him, a weak grin. "I appreciate your gallantry, Mr. Paris." He needed time to recuperate, as did she. She closed her eyes, still terrified by the darkness of mind she found behind her eyelids.



"You... I can't survive that again... the next time... I don't know who I'll come out as." His voice was wavering.

"You'll survive it, and that's an order, Mr. Paris. As long as we can resist, we will resist." The words were bravely meant, but she knew how untrue they were. The horrible terror she felt on coming out of the blackness, how easy it had been to descend into the downward spiral of nebulous panic, non-thought and madness, all of this was enough to frighten her. But she couldn't say that. Even if she wanted to. She didn't have anyone to bring her through this, but she would be that person for him. As long as she could.

"I can't," Paris said starkly into the silence. "I know what I can take, and I can't take this."

"What do you mean?"

"I... you know my record. I've been *unpopular* with many elements of Starfleet and many elements outside of Starfleet as well. I... they did a lot of unpleasant things..." his voice trailed off, hiding horrors too terrible to mention. The beatings, the fear, the bullying, even the sexual acts he'd performed. An admiral's son was a great prize for the kind of people whose hands he'd fallen into. He was as loathsome as a toad inside and he knew it. And yet, this was worse than all those things, was getting at him, at what remained of an inner core.

"I understand, Mr. Paris."

"You couldn't." He looked at her, eyes bright and desperate. "One more time in there and there won't be anything left of me."

Janeway hesitated, torn between admitting to her own fears and uttering the lie of duty. "I... you don't have any choice, Mr. Paris. *We* don't have any choice."

He stared at her for a long moment before rolling away. "Yes. I knew that."

They laid there in silence, neither one wanting to admit anything, wanting to say anything.

* * *

Resistance being futile, the prisoners allowed themselves to be led to their destruction. Paris glanced once at Janeway before letting himself be taken away, his eyes filled with grim resolution. "You've been a good captain. I... I respected you."

"You're a fine lieutenant, Mr. Paris," Janeway said, as he was roughly pulled away. She stood still for a moment, watching him, then fell obediently into step with her captor.

The room they were led to was like any other medical laboratory of its kind, white, sparkling with efficiency, full of equipment and gadgetry. Janeway's eyes immediately went to the row of sarcophaguses along the wall, no doubt the instruments of their destruction.

She wanted to run then, but something hissed against her arm and she went limp, the world fading around her.

* * *

The two unresisting, almost lifeless bundles were dumped carelessly together on the floor, as if there was no need for consideration toward these creatures who were almost things rather than people.

Janeway moaned. She was somewhere, she didn't know where, but it was a place, not a darkness, and that was important, although she didn't remember why. Something, *someone* was there with her and that was important to. She didn't know who she was, couldn't even formulate the concept.

Paris struggled up to consciousness, tears leaking from his eyes. There was someone next to him, and he cringed away instinctively, expecting pain. "No!" He meant to shout it, but it came out as the weakest of sounds.

She turned her head toward the noise, blindly seeking the source. "What? You?" The words fell disjointedly from her lips, not coming out of the chaos in her mind. The world was running in wet watercolors around her, and he was the only point of stability in it. She didn't know why that was, but she fastened onto him nonetheless.

They were lying close together, limbs overlapping, but too out of control to move. Paris tried to scuttle back, tried to lever himself up, ingrained fear motivating him even when there was little left of his reasoning mind to tell him what to do.

But he couldn't move, and he was forced to stay there, close to the source of his terror.

The look in his eyes was familiar, and she focused on that, trying to understand that. The blond hair, the face... she *knew* him. A word swum up out of her memory. "Tom?"

Hysterical, weak laughter broke out of him. "Captain." He stopped struggling, tension draining away as the fear left him. He *knew* he didn't have to be afraid of her. Although something horrible was happening to him, something that left him as helpless as he had been at the lowest points of his life, he knew he was safe for the moment.

Janeway dropped her head forward until she was almost touching him. Dizziness flooded over her, but she was all right now. She knew who she was, and although that wasn't everything, it was enough.

"Captain?" Another voice broke in. Janeway knew the voice, but she couldn't identify it, couldn't move to see the face that went with it. Someone stooped over her, and there was a hand on her forehead, turning her until she could see the dark face. The movement was too much for her, and she closed her eyes, trying to regain the little equilibrium she'd reacquired while lying motionless on the floor.

"Voyager, three to beam up to Sickbay."

* * *

Captain's Log

I have placed Commander Chakotay in charge of the Voyager until further notice. I am not in command of my own mind, and thus am not fit to command others. I and Lieutenant Paris are on indefinite medical leave until this matter can be resolved.

Personal Log

The Halamvid incident has been resolved peacefully, thanks to Mr. Tuvok, who was able to persuade them of the correct course of action. Apparently his otherworldly appearance and resistance to mental pressure was able to convince them of his credentials. If not for his actions, I and Mr. Paris would be even now reciting everything we know of Federation methods and technology for their amusement. I didn't believe that to be possible. Now I know better. I suppose it's important to learn I'm not invincible, but I can't say as I like the lesson very much.

* * *

The holodeck already had an occupant. Paris hesitated at the door. He didn't have much else to do, not without his job, and with everyone he cared to socialize with busy at work. He didn't feel very much like going back to his quarters and staring at the walls again. As long as it wasn't a private program and wasn't someone he couldn't stand, he could always join them. Holodecks were much bigger on the inside than on the outside. He didn't have to socialize if he didn't want to. And he didn't want to. His edges felt even more rough than usual. "Computer, who is in the holodeck?"

"Captain Kathryn Janeway."

He heard the words and stared at the door. Squaring his shoulders, he went in.

The door opened into a library. Paris blinked, letting his eyes readjust. The room was dark, a sharp contrast to the bright light of Voyager's halls.

He didn't see the woman sitting on the rug in front of the fire until she spoke. "Mr. Paris. This is a surprise."

He came around the couch to where he could see her. She was out of uniform, in a white cabled sweater, with her knees drawn up to her chest, and her hair down around her shoulders. She looked like she'd been staring into the fire, searching for something. Perhaps the same thing he was missing.

"I'm sorry, Captain. I didn't mean to intrude. I... I'll be going."

"Nonsense, Mr. Paris, have a seat." She motioned to the leather couch.

Reluctantly, he sat.

She sat there in silence, staring at each other, Paris perched uncomfortably on the edge of the couch, resisting the urge to fidget under her cool gaze.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, her voice almost gentle.

He started to make the automatic response, trained into him by too many prying inquiries into his feelings after what had happened to him before. But this was different. She had gone through it with him. And he couldn't see giving the captain, this captain, anything less than honesty. "Better."

She nodded. "I feel better as well. It would be hard not to." She looked down, away from him. "I still don't feel in control." Her voice was very soft. "I don't remember what being me was like."

The admission cut at him. Hearing *her* say it was shattering. Hesitantly, he spoke, his voice layered with years of bitterness and pain. "You'll remember."

The sound of his voice recalled her to her place and position. She felt ashamed of herself for even feeling such a weakness, much less speaking it. He was one of her crew, she couldn't be anything less than the captain to him. But then, everyone was her crew now, and the only person she could ever be completely herself before was an infinitely long distance away. Which was why she had created this holodeck scenario. But there was no satisfaction in it, no catharsis. "You've gone through this before."

It wasn't quite a question, but he responded as if it were, a pained looked crossing his face. "I have. You'll remember. I... I can't say that you'll be the same person though."

A look of sympathy crossed her face. "You weren't the same person afterwards?"

"How could I be?" Paris asked bitterly. "The proud young admiral's son died there. I... He was a fool and he deserved to die. Who I am now is an entirely different person, and I can't always say I like him very much."

She scooted closer to him, feeling an empathy with him. "You're a fine person now, Mr. Paris. I'm proud to have you as one of my officers."

He looked at her, trying to see something in her eyes. "I didn't break back there, you know."

She made a small sound in her throat, trying to encourage him.

"You can't break something that's already broken. I... I'm not what you think I am."

"You're more than good enough for me, Mr. Paris." She reached out to him, covering his hand with her own in a quick expression of comfort.

He reacted as if struck, holding very still then, searching her face for any sign of mockery or possible danger. Finding none, he still held taut, unable to accept the small gesture.

She pulled back, seemingly without noticing how he'd frozen. When she spoke, her voice had a hint of self-deprecation in it. "I suspect you'll recover much faster than I will. I had never imagined an experience like that."

"I'd rather have been beaten."

She lifted an eyebrow at him, acknowledging the double entendre. "Really, Mr. Paris?"

He colored despite himself, and then grinned. "I see you've heard about my reputation."

The corners of her mouth lifted. "I wouldn't judge a person based on gossip."

Abruptly he sobered. "No, you wouldn't." He looked at her, studying her slender form clad in the soft, clinging sweater. "I appreciate that, captain. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that."

"It's all right, Mr. Paris." She smiled at him, an approving look. "Your work has always been more than satisfactory."

"Thank you." He dropped the habitual air of defensiveness he wore for a moment. "You don't know how much that means to me."

"I think I have an idea." She smiled at him, then dropped her eyes again, remembering again why she was there at all, what had happened to draw them together like this. "That... that was the most intensely unpleasant experience in my life. I would never have believed that the total lack of feeling or seeing or hearing could be so devastating."

Paris held silent, honoring her confession.

She continued, talking more to herself than to him. "When I found out that we'd been in there less than an hour each time, I felt even more like a failure. An hour? Three hours total and I couldn't even last that long. We... The third time, I couldn't even remember who I was until you called me 'Captain'." She shook her head, as if trying to clear it of thoughts she'd rather not have. "What would have happened if they'd done it again?"

She shivered, despite her heavy sweater and the fire.

Without thinking about it, Paris dropped down next to her, kneeling by her side. He didn't touch her. "You can't blame yourself that way. I... I didn't think I'd even survive that time. Once more..." He looked at her with a direct look in his clear eyes. "If you hadn't been there, I would have given in before then. You gave me the courage I needed to keep trying."

She looked at him, so close to her. He was trying to comfort her now, and comfort was the one thing she couldn't accept and desperately needed. "I was as frightened as you were, Mr. Paris. Even more because I am responsible for you and for what happens to you."

He shook his head, but didn't say anything. What she was saying was only the truth, but he couldn't remember the last time anyone had taken responsibility for him, had cared what happened to him.

They were very close to each other, and Janeway was intensely of conscious of that, of Paris' presence there. He wouldn't do anything; she had no fear of him. Traditions old as time held them bound. She was the captain, he would never take the initiative, would not step over that line. She didn't know what she wanted or what she was thinking.

With a soft sigh, she leaned over, giving him time to back away. But he didn't move, just let her lean into him, until her head was cradled against his shoulder. That acceptance was all she needed to bring unwanted tears to her eyes, and she buried her face in his chest, sagging against him. His arms came around her, and she let him hold her. He stared over her head at the fire, neither of them wanting to verbalize how much they needed this comfort, how little they were able to expose of their real selves to anyone.

After an eternal time, Janeway spoke, with her light tone trying to establish some distance between them. "You don't seem so cocky now, Mr. Paris."

"Well, I left my cocky uniform back in my quarters," he said.

She looked up at him then. The uncertainty in her face was mirrored in his. Neither of them knew what they were doing. But she seemed to see something else there as well, something under that brilliant facade other than cynicism and defiance.

Before she could think better of it, she raised her hands to his shoulders and levered herself up, kissing him.

His hands shifted to keep pace with her changing position, but he didn't resist. Instead, he responded with a fervency of desire that surprised her. His skill she expected, the way he waited for her to make a move, then took control of it, his free hand moving down her side in a slow caress to her hip. But she had not expected to find that he had a need almost as great as her own.

His lips moved over hers, warm and firm, the heat of that contact burning through to her cold, sensation-starved soul. She was breathing in his essence, being plundered, and it felt *good*.

With a shock, she pulled away, dropping her head to his chest.

"What's wrong?" he asked, sick panic racing through him. What had he been thinking? This was the *captain*. Talk about abusing his position.

"I can't do this. I apologize... Tom." She looked up at him on his name, then away again, unable to meet the concern and the accusation in his eyes. "I should never have done that. I... what you must think of me. I don't do things like this."

"Like what?" he asked, his habitual caustic tone lacing his voice. "Play around with the notorious rake, Tom Paris? You're not the only one who doesn't do things like that."

She reacted more to his tone than his words. "What do you mean?"

He didn't want to explain, but he couldn't deny her anything. "Do you really think anyone is going to want to throw away their career on an ex-con?"

Forgetting her own troubles of the conscience, she looked up at him. "Career? A brief affair is hardly something to derail a career. And then there's the Delaney sisters..." She closed her mouth and blushed.

He chuckled, and that embarrassed even her more. "I couldn't even get lucky with a hologram. You've seen how they torment me."

Her eyes twinkled. "And who programmed them?"

He pretended a look of offended innocence. "I have no idea. Obviously a masochist with deep psychological problems."

She stirred in his arms, pulling away from his warmth. She didn't want to, had needed this sort of contact for too long. It had almost been like being home again, but it was all a fantasy, and a very dangerous fantasy at that.

She turned to look at him, to apologize for her actions yet again and set the barrier back between them.

He reached out to her, brushing a stray lock of golden-red hair out of her face. His hand touched her cheek lightly, and she leaned into it despite herself, wanting that contact and deeply ashamed of herself for that.

She covered his hand with her own, stopping him. "No. We can't. As much as I want to, it's not possible."

Her whole body was inclined toward him, even though she was no longer quite touching him, and that he wanted her was undeniable from his manner and his body.

"Because you're the captain?" Paris asked, the words quiet in the still room. He didn't pull his hand back, and she didn't let go of it.

"Yes. Because of that. And because I... don't want anything more... and you do deserve more than that."

He smiled ruefully. "I don't think I've ever heard *that* speech before. I've *given* it a couple of times, but I've never heard it."

She looked sternly at him, the captain in her coming to the forefront. "Do you understand me, Mr. Paris?"

"Yes, I understand, captain."

"Good." Drawing all the regal dignity around her which she could summon, Janeway waited for him to pull away, waited for him to leave her alone with her endlessly downward spiraling thoughts and the fire.

Instead he reached out for her again, pushing her gently back on the rug while coming to rest next to her. She didn't resist. He leaned over her propped up on one elbow, free hand tracing the line of her jaw. "I understand that this didn't happen, that neither of us was ever weak enough to want someone else, that completely meaningless physical passion is the most I can handle, and that you are too perfect, too far about human to ever need someone else this way. Is that right?"

"And if it is?" Janeway asked breathlessly.

"Then we forget who we are for the moment and be what we want to be." He looked down at her, eyes serious. "I can cloak it in hundreds of pretty words, but I want you. I care about you, my dear captain. You gave me trust when no on else would, and you pulled me through this last situation when nothing else worked. It would be an honor and a pleasure to give a little back."

"And afterwards?"

"Toasted marshmallows?"

Her eyebrows narrowed, and he revised his answer. "You'll still be the captain, and I'll still be Lieutenant Paris. What else is there?" His voice was light, but his eyes were bleak, with no hope in them.

She tugged on the front of his uniform, pulling him down, trying to keep her own voice as light. "I don't think I've had such an appealing offer all day."

"All *day*?" he asked, even as he let himself be pulled off-balance. He covered her mouth with his own, not giving her a chance to respond. Her mouth opened under his, warm and inviting, and he lost himself in that sensation.

His hand moved down her body, stroking her over the sweater. Watching her eyes, he pushed underneath until his hand was touching bare skin.

She sighed, moving her hand to his cheek, pulling her mouth away from him. "Yes. That feels good. You don't know..."

"Don't know what it's like to want contact with someone else after having been locked inside your own head?" His eyes were a little desperate, and she recognized what he was saying, what he couldn't ask for, but wanted just the same.

Her hand trailed down his cheek to his neck, stroking the exposed skin above his collar. Involuntarily, he shuddered.

Huskily, she said, "You may have a point." Janeway ran her hand down his arm, and over his clothed chest.

"Don't... let me..."

"No. Allow me." She sat up, a small smile playing on her face, and Paris was devastated by it. Bemusedly, he laid there, still half-reclining next to her, while she ran her hands over him, unfastening the uniform tunic, and gradually divesting him of it. Unfortunately, he was still wearing the standard issue shirt under it. "Starfleet uniforms," she murmured in an undertone. "Efficient, practical, and a damned nuisance."

Paris was startled into a laugh, broken off abruptly when she pulled the shirt up, hands playing over the bare skin of his stomach.

She had the advantage on him now, and he didn't know whether he liked that. In any case, he didn't have a choice. He watched with spellbound interest as she pulled her sweater off over her head, then leaned forward again, tugging his shirt upwards.

The first contact of skin against skin was a shock, tingling over both of them. Paris couldn't stand the inactivity any longer, and sat up, stripping the tunic off with quick movements.

And then she was against him, and the feeling of warm, living woman against him was enough to bring a prickle of wetness even to his jaded eyes. The experience with the Halamvids had stripped more away from him than he had realized. He was glad that this first time, this intensity, was being shared with someone he could trust. He didn't know how much further his facade would crack tonight, and the last thing he wanted was someone thinking they had seen inside him and were therefore some sort of friend or lover.

His hands roved down from her shoulders, over her back, tracing an intricate pattern on her back.

She retaliated by kissing a line from his mouth down his jaw to his throat. She was about to move lower, when he stopped her, putting his hand on the side of her head, tangling in her hair. "No. Let me."

Janeway looked up at him, then allowed him to lay her down on the rug. She watched him, firelight dancing in his eyes, and touching his hair and skin, giving him a warm, honeyed tone. His eyes were intense as he looked at her, and she found herself wondering how long he'd wanted her, or if this had come as suddenly and powerfully as it had for her.

He came down to her, body settling against her, one leg hooked over her own, a welcome weight holding her to him. He kissed her first in the hollow of her throat, as a lazy hand cupped her breast.

She caught her breath, closing her eyes in anticipation.

Lips followed his hand, a warm, moist caress tickling her, swirling around the smooth skin, before finally settling over her nipple. The sensation was intense enough on his own, but he didn't leave it there, instead suckling at her.

Janeway groaned, an answering response moving through the rest of her body, the needing sensation traveling through her with a feeling akin to pain, only it wasn't painful. Her hand moved up on his own, to rake through his hair, whether to pull him away or to hold him closer, she couldn't have said.

He turned his head to look up at her. She wasn't watching him, but it didn't matter. She wanted him, and that was gratifying to his ego, which could always use boosting, despite the rumors to the contrary.

"I believe it's my turn now," Janeway said huskily.

"We're taking turns?" Paris asked, a sensual look in his eyes. "I don't need the encouragement."

She looked up at him, reading the truth of that in his eyes. She didn't need to be in control here. And she didn't want to be, despite a vague feeling that she should be. "Carry on."

He grinned at her. "I will." He transferred his attention to the other side, and she closed her eyes again, letting him do whatever he wanted to her.

The wetness moved down her body, and then gentle, practiced hands were tugging at her slacks, easing them off her body, freeing her from the suddenly all too confining clothing. She had been cold all evening, but now she was entirely too warm, needing to feel air on her skin.

Knowledgeable hands moved down her thighs, sweeping across her skin in arcs which were at first merely soothing, but then evolved into something more, the sensation unbearably erotic and tender all at once. She didn't need to be teased any further. What she wanted was him, the reassurance of his body against hers to tell her that she was alive and that this was real and not merely some hallucination she had dreamed up in the Halamvid torture chamber.

She pulled on his shoulders, and he looked at her questioningly. "Now?"

"Now." She tried to sound stern, but failed.

He stripped off the rest of his clothes, and came down over her, placing his hands on either side of her. He held himself like that, not making another move. "Are you sure?" he asked.

She ran her hand down his side, making him shudder almost imperceptibly. "Are you?"

"Oh, yes." He didn't wait any longer, but let his weight settle into her, sinking as deeply into her body as he could.

He was being entirely too careful with her, and she didn't want that right now. Opening herself wider, she reached down his back to his buttocks and pulled on him.

He looked at her, surprised, and she squeezed. "I don't break."

"No?" He grinned at her, and then started moving the way he wanted to, losing himself in the sensation of heat and wetness, the tight slickness mixing inextricably with the heat of the fire and the smell and feel of her.

She moved with him, reaching up to draw him down to her. This might be a brief moment of insanity, but it was the only moment of closeness she was likely to allow herself in an otherwise lonely existence. She needed this right now, and wanted it; however, it was as result of a horrible, shattering experience. She couldn't have Paris, couldn't have anyone, and that made this brief encounter all the more precious. She scraped his back lightly with her fingernails, her hands moving up into his hair.

He covered her mouth with his own, and she sighed softly. The pleasure of it, the feeling of him moving inside her, of his lips, his strength, all gave her a deep sense of contentment and fulfillment. This was what she'd wanted, this elemental experience. Nothing else mattered.

He shuddered and went still, pulling his head back, exposing the line of his throat to her. She reached an idle hand up, and traced the muscles of his chest as he continued to move inside her, not yet wanting to finish this.

Paris looked down at the woman under her. "Now?"

She shook her head. "No. That was... quite enough."

He moved off her, to the side, looking quizzical. "I don't mind."

She rolled on her side, looking at him, still tracing the lines of his chest, a slight smile playing on her face. "No."

He shrugged. "If that's what you want. Never refuse a lady anything, that's my motto."

She smiled. "It would be."

In a moment, they'd have to return to the real world, where she was his captain and this had never happened, where she had never shown this damning vulnerability. But that was in a moment. For now...

Janeway moved closer to him, resting her head against him, until he closed his arms around her. "This is what I want."

He stroked her arm. "If you're sure..."

"I'm sure. Ssh."

He was quiet then, and held her as they both listened to the crackle of the holographic fire.

--the end--


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