A Matter of Security

From crime@acs.bu.edu Tue Feb 13 14:03:02 1996
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 07:52:22 -0500 (EST)
From: mary self
To: David Tremel
Cc: mary self
Subject: A Matter of Security

Here’s the first Paris/Matthews story I ever wrote.

DISCLAIMERS: All characters in this story are the property of Paramount,
except for that of Caitlin Mattews, who, along with the story,
is my creation.

WARNING: THIS STORY DOES CONTAIN SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL. YOU HAVE BEEN
CAUTIONED.

A Matter of Security

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

The door chimed.

Captain Kathryn Janeway looked up from her desk. “Come.”

The door opened to reveal her Chief of Security, Tuvok.

“Well, Mr. Tuvok, what can I do for you?” She sat back in her chair.

“Captain, as you may be aware, my time for Pon farr is approaching,
and I will be needing extensive and uninterupted use of one of the holodecks.”

Janeway repressed a grin. Was it her imagination or did she detect a
brief look of embarrassment in those dark, Vulcan eyes? “Understood. You may
use Holodeck 2; I will inform the crew that particular holodeck will be off
limits for a few days.” She cleared her throat. “Will you be requiring any
assistance during the ritual?”

“Thank you, no.” Came the stoic reply. “However, as I will be
unavailable during this time, you may wish to appoint a replacement. I would
suggest Ensign Caitlin Matthews.”

“Matthews? Isn’t she one of our Maquis crew members?” The thought
that Tuvok would suggest a Maquis to head security took the Captain more than
slightly aback.

“Yes, but having worked with her on both ships, I know her knowledge
of both Starfleet and Maquis tactics to be quite sound. Further, since coming
aboard, I have found her commitment to our current mission to be beyond
question, and her grasp of Starfleet protocol is more than adequate. I believe
you would find her a suitable replacement.”

“Have you discussed this with Commander Chakotay?” Janeway asked.

“I have, and he supports my recommendation.”

“Very well. Have Ms. Matthews report to me tomorrow morning. I would
like to speak with her personally before making my decision. Dismissed.”

At Tuvok’s departure, Janeway reached for her crew PADD and punched up
the Ensign’s record. She frowned. While there had been no incidents of late,
Matthew’s temper had landed her in one of Tuvok’s first protocol classes.
Her background was typical Maquis. She had worked with her father as
a trader along the border during the war; that was until the Cardassians
boarded her father’s ship and deciding he was a spy, took him back to
Cardassia Prime.
Caitlin had been on Tohvun III coordinating a shipment of farm
machinery at the time. Afterwards, she had begun making preparations to enlist
in Starfleet, but the peace treaty had changed all that. Believing, as many
did in the territories, that the Federation had made a colossal mistake, she
had joined the Maquis to continue her own personal battle against
the Cardassians.
A level 5 pilot, her Maquis record revealed a distinguished combat
history, both in space and on the ground. Furthermore, according to Ensign
Kim, Matthews and Torres often worked out together using one of B’Elanna’s
holographic combat programs.
And in spite of her fiery temper and undisciplined manner, this Maquis
had managed to achieve the respect of her Chief of Security, her Chief
Engineer and her First Officer. The last two Janeway could understand, but
Tuvok? Perhaps there is more to this Caitlin Matthews than meets the eye.

*******************************************************************************

Ensign Matthews hurried along the corridor. It wasn’t everyday you
met privately with the Captain, and the last thing she wanted to be was late.
She almost hadn’t believed it. Her? Temporary Security Chief?
Had it been anyone else she would’ve laughed, but the fact that it was Tuvok
who told her meant it was no joke.
They had earned each other’s respect in the battle on Celex 4, and
even though later, he had revealed himself to be a spy, she was gratified they
had maintained that respect, however grudging it might now be.
Reaching the door to the Captain’s Ready Room, she touched the chime.

“Come.”

“You wanted to see me, Captain?”

“Yes, Ensign. Come in and sit down. . .”

************* ************

“So what did the Captain want to see you about?” asked B’Elanna,
picking up a forkful of food.

Caitlin grinned. “I’m going to be switching my duty shift to match
yours and Harry’s for a while. The Captain wants to observe my performance
at the security station.”

“Why?” Harry broke in. “From what I hear, Mr. Tuvok’s pretty
impressed with you work?”

“That’s just it. He’s so impressed that he has nominated me to be his
replacement during his upcoming, er, vacation.”

B’Elanna’s jaw dropped. “No, you’re joking. The Captain would allow
you, a Maquis, as security chief.”

“She trusts you in engineering, doesn’t she?” Caitlin retorted.

“Congratulations!” Harry interjected. “I think its great. C’mon
B’Elanna, it’s just one more sign that the two crews are merging. You,
yourself said this morning that she deserved the position more than anyone.
Well, now, she’s got it.”

“Oh no, I haven’t gotten it yet.” Caitlin protested. “I still have
to pass inspection. But frankly, I’d rather clean out the Jefferies’ tubes
than go back to stellar cartography. And speaking of one of the devils,
guess who just walked in. Ensign Jenny I-left-my-brain-in-my-other-uniform
Delaney and our hotshot pilot, Lt. Paris; figures she’s the type he’d go for.”

“Hey, Tom’s not that bad. He has his good points,too.” Harry felt
he had to defend his friend.

B’Elanna agreed. “Harry’s right. Tom may be a pig, but he can also
be very protective and caring. I can’t forget how he took care of me when the
Vediians kidnapped us.”

“I suppose you two *may* be right, but so far I’ve never seen a chink
in the bravado, and until I do, I intend to have as little to do with him as
possible. Uh-oh, here they come.”

“Hey guys,” Tom smiled. “Mind if we join you?”

“Oh, go right ahead.” Caitlin’s face was a mask of sincerety. “In
fact, why don’t you take my place; I have to be leaving anyway.” She added
rising.

“So soon?” B’Elanna’s tone bordered on sarcasm.

“Actually, yes. Mr Tuvok wants me to begin committing Starfleet trial
and sentencing procedures to memory.”

“Sentencing procedures? What are you talking about?” Paris’
brow knotted.

“Yes, I guess he wants me prepared for every eventuality. So Harry,
the next time you decide to pick a fight with the Captain at Sandrine’s, I’ll
probably be the prosecutor at your court martial,” she teased.

Tom winced. *Funny the effect those words still had. Did she say them
intentionally?* He wondered.

“Anyway,” Caitlin continued. “Tonight at Sandrine’s as usual guys?
Great. Harry, you still owe me a game. Sir.” She nodded with solemnity at
Tom before leaving the table.

“What was that all about?” Tom looked from Harry to B’Elanna.

“Caitlin is joining our shift for a few days, so Captain Janeway can
observe her performance at security. Tuvok has recommended her to be his
replacement.” Harry explained.

“Security Chief?! Great, I feel safer already.”

“Hey, she is good at her job, Tom.” B’Elanna protested. “Since we
lost Durst, she has really pulled herself together and filled his position.
I think she deserves the same chance I was given.”

“I agree.” echoed Harry.

“Well, maybe.” Tom grudgingly admitted. “All I know is that sometime
between now and coming on board, she decided she didn’t like me. And frankly,
I see no reason why I should try to change her mind.” He concluded taking a
bite of his lunch.

************ ************

“Your break,” Tom said as he finished racking up the balls.

Caitlin smiled. This was their fifth game, and so far, she and B’Elanna
were beating the two men three games to one. She drew back her stick and shot.

Bam! The balls scattered across the table. The 3 and 15 went in and
the cue ball came to rest behind the 4.

Tom groaned inwardly, *She’s going to clear the table again.* “Where
the hell did you learn to play like this, Ensign?”

Caitlin’s face was a mask of pure concentration, as she chalked the tip
of her stick and walked around the table. “I worked as a small-time trader
with my father since I was fifteen, Lieutenant.” She bent down and sunk the 4
and 7 before continuing. “Which means I’ve been in and out of bars most of my
life.” She chalked her stick and took aim at the 2. “Both with him and the
members of his crew.”

Clunk!

“And one of the best ways to survive and earn respect is to become good
at bargames. 1 and 5 in the corner pocket.”

Clunk! Clunk!

“It’s also a very good way to conduct business transactions; although,
playing with Nausicaans and Klingons can be hazardous to your health, no
offense, B’Elanna. 6 in the side.”

“None taken.” Her friend grinned. Harry was going to owe both of them
one week’s replicator rations each by the end of this game.

“8 in the corner. That’s the game, gentlemen.” Caitlin threw her
stick on the table. “Let’s see; I believe it was loser buys. Correct,
Lieutenant?”

“Yeah, right. Hey Sandrine, four more on my bill.” Tom yelled as the
four of them sat down. He didn’t mind paying on a wager, but did she have to
be so smug? With his father, it had always been the smugness of moral
superiority; with her? Cockiness mixed with disgust, maybe? Whatever it was,
it annoyed him to no end.

“So, I understand you’ll be joining our duty shift tomorrow.” *Two can
always play at this game, Ensign.* Tom’s face was the picture of innocent
inquisitiveness. “Temporary chief of security, I understand.”

Caitlin narrowed her eyes slightly. *On guard, kid; something’s up.*
“Not yet,” she replied. “The Captain wants to review my performance first-hand
before deciding.” *And if you even think about causing me trouble,
Lieutenant,* she added to herself.

“Oh, I see.” He took a sip of his burgundy and returned her
distrustful gaze with clear blue eyes.

Harry and B’Elanna looked at both of them. Tensions were rising at the
table. As if to support him, Ricki came up and placed her hand on Tom’s
shoulder. He adjusted his position so that she could sit on his leg, his arm
wrapped around her waist.

Contempt written on her face, Caitlin looked at the hologram. She
took a swallow of her synthale and shifted her gaze back to Paris.

“How about another game?” suggested Harry. “This time Caitlin and me
against you two.”

“Never abandon your partner, Harry.” Caitlin’s voice reprimanded him
gently. “It’s one of the unofficial rules; I guess you could call it pool
protocol.”

“I guess you’re becoming an authority on protocol?” Tom’s voice
reflected none of the intended sarcasm.

“It’s necessary for me to do so in order to successfully complete my
duties.” Caitlin replied evenly. *One thing is for sure; you can’t get in
trouble with good ol’ Vulcan stoicism.*

“Still,” Tom continued. “There are a lot of Starfleet regulations you
may not be familiar with.”

“Then I hope I can turn to you for assistance, especially regarding
disciplinary procedures.” Caitlin returned his challenge impassively.

“Caitlin,” B’Elanna said softly. This verbal sparring was escalating,
and she didn’t want her friend to get into any trouble at least not at this
point in time, even if Tom was being a poocuh.

Paris’ face flushed, and for the first time, his eyes lost their
crystalline innocence, turning deep blue with rage.

A quick smile danced across Caitlin’s lips. She had won. There was no
need to let the “game” escalate any higher. She rose to go to the bar, only to
find her way blocked by Lt. Paris.

“Are you certain you can handle the job of security chief?” he
demanded bluntly.

“As well as any traitorous ex-con with a holocrutch can handle the
conn.” *If you want the gloves off. Lieutenant, they’re off,* Caitlin thought.

Paris’ face turned dangerously dark. Harry had never seen his friend
so angry, and rose to intercede.

“Don’t you ever,” Tom began, his voice ominously quiet as he fought for
control. “Don’t you ever let me hear you make a comment like that again,
Ensign.”

“With all `due’ respect, Sir.” Her green eyes flashing with anger.
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

“Hey Tom,” Harry put his hand on his friend’s shoulder.

Tom shook it off, and before he knew what he was doing, he took a
swing at the smug face in front of him.

Caitlin caught his arm and with a graceful ease twisted it behind his
back, forcing Paris to his knees.

“What the hell is going on here?” The Captain’s voice made them
all jump.

Releasing Tom, Caitlin quickly snapped to attention. *Well, I’ve blown
it now. Good-bye Chief of Security.*

B’Elanna rose. “Well, Captain, we were discussing the difference
between Starfleet and Klingon disarming manuvers. And Caitlin was merely
illustrating why she prefers the Klingon style.” She wasn’t about to let her
friend get into trouble for something Paris had started.

“Is this true, Mr. Paris?” The Captain watched her Conn officer slowly
get to his feet massaging his shoulder.

“Yes, Captain, and she has proven her point quite effectively.” Tom
looked at B’Elanna. *I won’t get you in trouble, even though your are covering
for her.* His gaze told her silently.

“I see. Well in the future, may I suggest that the gym is the place
for such demonstrations.” Janeway looked at all four of them, clearly not
believing what she was being told.

“Yes, Captain. I’m sorry,” came Caitlin’s reply. “Now if I may be
excused, I believe I have some more studying to do.”

“I think you may be right, Ensign. Dismissed.”

“I think I’ll go help her.” B’Elanna remarked and followed her
friend’s exit from the holodeck.

Caitlin was waiting outside in the corridor. “Thanks for covering for
me in there. I really thought my goose was, as they used to say, cooked.”

“No problem, but you’re going to have to watch out and learn to work
with Paris if you want this job.” B’Elanna advised as they walked toward the
turbolift. “It won’t be easy; believe me, I know. Especially, since it is
more personal between the two of you; at least, Carey’s and my arguments have
been mostly professional.”

“I know, I know. Somehow, I’ve got to keep my temper while working
with Tom, Tom, the admiral’s son, even if he provokes me.” She grinned. “You
know, B’Elanna, I think that’s going to be the hardest part of this
assignment.”

B’Elanna returned the smile. “Surely the veteran of Celex 4 and the
battle for Rina’ar can emerge victorious here? Or is Tom worse than a Cardie?”

“Can I get back to you on that?” Caitlin asked, chuckling as they
entered the lift.

*******************************************************************************

“Captains Log, Stardate 48613.2. We are in orbit around the planet,
Koranan II, supposedly rich in deposits of hemalite. It is uninhabited, and
due to a layer of highly charged ion particles in the upper atmosphere, I am
unwilling to risk using the transporters. Therefore, I have decided to send
down a shuttle with two of our crewmen to complete a more comprehensive
survey of the surface.
“Due to the problems that will be experienced during such a flight, I
have decided that Lt. Paris should pilot the shuttle, and I have chosen
Ensign Matthews to accompany him. Not ony is she a good pilot with a history
of field reconnaissance for the Maquis, but as I have observed a degree of
animosity between the two, I hope that a chance for them to work together
uninterrupted may serve to ease some of this tension.”

“Paris to Voyager.”

“Go ahead, Mr. Paris.” Janeway replied.

“Captain, we’re getting ready to enter the upper atmosphere. The ion
layer seems to be thicker and more concentrated than we first supposed. We are
going to try to maintain communications, but I’m not sure if we’ll be
successful.”

“Understood, and Lieutenant, be careful.” her voice conveyed a
genuine concern.

“Aye, Captain. Paris out.”

“Lieutenant, I’m reading a minor stress fracture on the outer hull of
the starboard engine.” Caitlin noted at the ship entered the atmosphere.

“Establish a containment field; we don’t want any of these ion
particles getting in.”

“Yes sir, containment field in place.”

The ship shuddered.

Tom checked his readings. “Ensign, I’m getting an energy fluctuation
in the starboard plasma flow. I thought you put a containment field around
that fracture.”

“I did, but the particles are breaking through.”

The ship swung hard to the right, nearly tossing them both to
the floor.

Tom swore. “We’ve lost the starboard impulse engine.”

“Reducing power to the port engine to compensate.” Caitlin replied.

“It’s not enough. Shut down the port reactor and fire manuvering
thrusters.”

“Manuvering thrusters are off-line.”

“Dammit, Ensign. I need those thrusters.”

“I’ll try to reinitiate a start-up.” Caitlin said, jumping out of
her chair.

“Gravitational pull is increasing our speed. Ensign, I could really
use those thrusters.” Tom tried to hide his own mounting panic.

“I’ve got ’em.” Caitlin yelled, as she sat back down. “Thrusters are
back on-line and firing.”

“Too late.” Tom informed her. “I’m going to try for a controlled
crash. Brace for impact.”

“Warning.” came the computerized voice. “Impact in fifteen seconds.
Fourteen. Thirteen. . .”

Tom shook his head. Outside the shuttle window, he could see trees and
behind them a violet sky. Turning toward the co-pilot’s seat, he put a hand on
Caitlin’s shoulder and gently shook her. “Hey, you okay?”

She opened her eyes; reflexes had shut them at the moment of impact.
Stirring slowly to test her body, she answered, “Yeah, I think so. You?”

“Umm-hmm.” He stared out the window.

“That was some really nice flying, Lieutenant. Not many people could
have pulled it off.”

Tom grimaced. “Thanks, I think. I’ll let you know more once I’ve
checked out the engines.” He spun his seat around and headed for the door.

The shuttle lay at a twenty degree slant with its nose patially buried
in a small mound of soil. The starboard engine was almost completely buried,
meaning that repairs were going to have to be made the slow way from the inside
out. *Damn! Well, better get started, Thomas, old man.*

“Janeway to Paris.”

No response.

“Janeway to Matthews.”

Nothing.

“Mr. Kim can you get any readings on the shuttle?”

“Negative, Captain. Sensors cannot penetrate the ion layer.” replied
the young man.

“What could’ve caused that increased concentration of particles we
noted as they entered the atmosphere? Mr. Tuvok, do you have any theories?”
Janeway wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear the Vulcan’s suppositions or not.

“At this time, I lack sufficient data to render an hypothesis.
However, sensors were able to detect an increase in deuterium levels within
the layer.”

“Deuterium?”

“Yes, Captain. I believe such an increase could only have come as the
result of a fuel leak on the shuttle.”

“If you’re right.” Janeway finished the Security Chief’s line of
thought. “Then they may have crashed on the surface, and right now, we have
no way to get them back. Janeway to all senior officers. Report to the
Briefing Room immediately.”

*********** ************

Caitlin sat back and drew an arm over her brow. She had been digging
for over an hour, uncovering as much of the starboard engine as the hard earth
would allow, and she didn’t like what she saw. The black streaks on the outer
hull casing probably gave only a tiny clue to the amount of damage inside.
Discouraged, she thrust the piece of wood she had been using as a shovel in the
ground and entered the shuttle.
Paris lay on his back, sandwiched between a partition and a seat, his
head underneath the engineering console. He raised it slightly as she entered
the craft.

“Is the engine dug out yet, Ensign.”

“No sir, and it ain’t gonna be,” she responded flippantly. “At least
not until I rest for a minute. Why the hell, doesn’t Starfleet put basic tools
on these tin buckets they call shuttles? I could’ve had the engine partially
uncovered by now if I had a shovel.” She sat down across from him with her
back against the wall.

Tom shrugged. “Well, we’ll never get out of here if you don’t get that
starboard engine uncovered. I can’t repair all the damage from in here.”

“And that’s another thing,” she wagged an accusatory finger at him.
“I realize you are the senior officer and all, but why do I have to do all the
digging. I’ve had just as much experience repairing impulse engines as you
have, probably even more.”

Tom pulled himself out from under the console. “Someone has to do it;
besides I’ve had more experience with Starfleet shuttles than you have.”

“Yeah, so I’ve heard.” Caitlin regretted the words as soon as they
popped out. *Dammit kid, watch your mouth,* she scolded.

Tom’s eyes narrowed. “Just what are you implying, Ensign?” *I’ve been
waiting for you to bring up Caldik Prime.*

“Nothing,” she shook her head. “Nothing at all. I’m just tired. That
damn soil is hard and dry; it makes digging almost impossible.” She tilted her
head back against the wall and closed her eyes.

Paris eyed her warily as he eased himself back down under the console.
So far they had worked okay together; both of them maintaining their
professionalism. She had been cooperative and had unquestioningly accepted his
order to dig out the engine. *And she had kept her head during our entry,
managing to get the thrusters back on-line,* he acknowledged in spite of
himself. Still, of all the people to be stranded with. “Hey Ensign.”

“Huh, what?” Her head snapped forward. *Geez, I must have dozed off.
Not good, kid.*

“Get back to digging. I need that engine free.”

She rose slowly, glaring at the reclined body in front of her. *Ass,
you’ve probably never dug a trench in you sheltered little life, or are you
just getting back at me for that fight in Sandrine’s?* she wondered at she
exited the shuttle. *Enh, probably both.*
She picked up the wood and began digging. With every spoonful of earth
that came up her anger mounted at him, at the situation, at the Captain, who
had sent her on this ridiculous mission. *She did it as a test; I know she
did. Probably some damned Starfleet bonding exercise. Put two people who are
at each other’s throat in a challenging situation and see if they can overcome
their differences. Well, is this a challenging enough situation for you,
Captain? Gods know, it is for me. Why, I even-* “Owww!”
She had become so wrapped up in her thoughts; she hadn’t noticed that
the wood had begun to develop stress fractures along the grain. As she plunged
the `shovel’ into the ground, her right hand slipped gashing her palm along one
of the fractures. Swearing, she dropped the wood and headed into the shuttle.

“Hey, I thought I ordered you to continue digging.” Tom didn’t bother
to look up.

She didn’t answer. Holding her wounded hand upward so she didn’t bleed
over anything; she knelt down and began rumaging through the medikit with her
one good hand.

“Ensign,” Tom sat up. “I asked you a- What are you doing?”

“I cut my hand open, and I’m trying to fix it up before I bleed to
death or get blood poisoning. Does that satisfy you?” She pulled out the
medical tricorder. “Great half a dozen spinters, and I’m a rightie.”

Paris stood up and moved over to wear she knelt. “Here, let me see.”
He bent down and took her hand in his.

Caitlin jerked back. “It’s okay, Lieutenant; I can take care of it
myself. I’ve patched up worse wounds than this before.”

“Yeah, on other people. Oh, I know your record, Ensign,” he responded
to her look of surprise. “Celex IV, Rina’ar, the Meridan settlement. You are
quite the soldier, aren’t you?” He extended his hand again. “Now let me see
the cut. That’s an order.”

Partly due to shock, she extended her wounded palm out to him. He took
it gently in his and ran the tricorder over it. *I was right,* she thought.
*He does have soft hands.*

Letting her hand go, he reached into the medikit and pulled out a
hypospray. “Okay, I’m going to give you an antibiotic mixed with a painkiller.
Most of the splinters are near the surface, but two of them have gone in deep,
and I may have to cut a little with the exoscalpel to get them out.”

She nodded and exposed her neck. As he reached behind her ear with the
hypospray, his fingers brushed her throat just behind the jugular. She jumped
a little at the touch, and then blushed ever so slightly.

“Ticklish?” he asked.

“No,” she replied lightly. “Just a little on edge.”

“Okay, we’ll give the painkiller time to activate. In the meantime,
let’s get some of this blood cleaned off so I can see what I’m doing.”

Caitlin watched him closely, surprised at how solicitous he had become.
*I guess, maybe B’Elanna and Harry were right; he does have his good side.*

In a few minutes, he had removed all the splinters and had sealed the
wound with an autosuture, before covering it with a clean bandage for
protection. “How does it feel?” he asked, putting the equipment back in
the kit.

“Numb,” Caitlin responded. “But better. Thanks, Lieutenant.” She
offered him a slight smile, which he didn’t return.

“Well, you certainly, can’t dig anymore, now.” His voice was rapidly
resuming its terse tone. “Which will certainly slow down our progress. So you
may as well sit here and hand me tools.”

She nodded, her eyes hardening in response. *Not five nanoseconds ago,
you were being kind and solicitous; now this. Just who the hell are you,
Lieutenant?*

************ ************

Save for Tom barking tool requests, they worked in silence for another
hour. Then, feeling his own stomach begin to rumble, he ordered a lunch break,
limiting them to half a ration bar and half an electrolyte drink each. They
ate outside the shuttle for about ten minutes.

“Well, back to work,” Paris ordered, standing up and heading towards
the spacecraft. He stopped and looked at Caitlin’s excavation. Shaking his
head, he entered the shuttle.

“What?” Caitlin called after him, growing defensive. “What the hell
is this?” She shook her own head in imitation. “Sir?”

“Nothing, nothing.” Tom eased himself back into position. “I was just
noting the progress or lack thereof, in extricating the shuttle. But then,”
he added wickedly. “You couldn’t help hurting your hand could you?” He didn’t
care if his tone didn’t conform to protocol; he was still furious at her for
the comment she had made in front of Harry and B’Elanna. At least, his
intimation fell on her ears alone.

“Just what are you implying, Sir?” Her voice deliberately scornfull as
she uttered the last word. “Are you suggesting that I cut my hand open
to avoid work?”

“I said nothing of the kind.” Tom continued looking at the panel. “I
merely noted that your injury prevents you from doing the one task you didn’t
wish to perform.”

“Is that what you are going to report? That I am a shirker, a cheat?”
Her eyes were livid emeralds, as the possible promotion became the furtherest
thing in from her mind.

“I never used those words, Ensign,” he continued in the same
deliberately calm voice.

“Oh, I find this rich coming from someone like you, Lieutenant. An
arrogant self-centered pig who spends his free-time chasing after *real* women
with the collective brainsize of a Mendarkian swamp rat.”

Tom grinned. He was starting to enjoy making her seeth for a change.
“You’re just jealous because I never chased after you.”

“Jealous? Such a ridiculous suggestion doesn’t even merit a denial.
No, Lieutenant. In order to be jealous, I’d have to at least have some respect for you, and I have none. How could I respect some brat, who’s given
everything and throws it all away just because he can’t face his mistakes until
its too late? How could I respect someone who, when he gets caught, stoops to
turning in his former cohorts just so that he can get an easier sentence?
“Let me tell you something, Tom, Tom, the Admiral’s son; I started out
with very little, just my father and his business. Now, thanks to the Cardies,
I’ve lost them both. Tell me Lieutenant, did you lose any family members in
the border wars? I’ll bet you didn’t. Well, let me tell you, it hurts; it
rips your guts out. It-”

Tom bolted up. He hadn’t expected this barrage, and it hit him hard.
“Shut up!” he snarled. “Shut up and leave my family out of this. You don’t
even begin to know what you are talking about.” The colour of his eyes
deepened and his face darkened as it had at Sandrine’s.
“Let ME tell you something about MY family, Ensign. My father made
admiral when he was forty-five, one of the youngest in Starfleet, and
everything I ever did was always judged by what he had done. Well, I tried, I
tried my damndest to measure up to those standards, but I couldn’t. So I gave
up, trying and caring. Finally, I found something I was good at- piloting, and
that gave me something to shoot for. But then, even that got taken away.
Sure, I haven’t lost a parent in war, but through my own stupid mistakes,
I’ve lost my career, my family, my fiancee, and probably my last chance to earn
my father’s respect. You can blame the Cardassians. I’ve got no one to blame
but myself, and that’s what I have to live with every day.” He eased himself
back under the damaged console.

Caitlin felt her face flush with embarrassment. She had never given
much thought to his bravado being anything more than annoying cockiness. She
watched him furiously attacking the damaged panel and decided now was not the
time to apologize. Silently, she rose and exited the shuttle, grabbing a
tricorder on her way out. Reconn was always a good way to give tensions time
to diffuse.
Tom watched her leave, and regretted his rather personal revelation.
He hadn’t meant to say any of that to anyone, except maybe Harry or the
Captain, and certainly, not in so many words. But she had pushed him, harder
than even he had realized. *Oh well, too late now, Thomas,* he thought, re-
activating the phaser welder.

An hour or so later, Caitlin returned. “Howzit going, Lieutenant?”
she asked using a nonchalent a tone as possible.

“The damage is worse than I thought. The power coupling is completely
shot, and the stabilizer is pretty badly damaged,” he replied avoiding
her gaze.

“So in other words, we’re stuck.”

Tom stopped what he was doing. “Yeah, you could put it that way,” he
said before resuming his repairs.

“Lieutenant.” *This isn’t going to be easy, kid.*

“What?” His manner was impatient, even though he knew he could work
two weeks straight and this ship still wouldn’t fly.

“Lieutenant, I’d like to apologize. I realize now that my assumptions
about you were based partially on erroneous data.” *Gods, I sound like Tuvok.*

“What?” If this was an apology, Tom wasn’t quite sure whether he
should accept it or not.

“I said, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that I had cut so close to the
bone.” She gave him a lopsided grin. “If he was alive, my father could list
for you the number of contracts I’d almost blown because of my mouth. I always
figured that time would temper, well, my temper, but so far that hasn’t
happened. So,” she extended her hand. “I’d like to apologize, for every-
thing I said.”

Tom wriggled out from under the console, and stood up, slowly
straightening out his twisted limbs. “S’okay, Ensign,” he grinned
mischievously as he shook her hand. “I guess I haven’t exactly given you
reason to think other than you did.”

They stood there smiling at each other. *Gods, his eyes are so blue.*
Caitlin found herself thinking. Embarrassed, she quickly released his hand and
knelt down. “So can I give you a hand? Er, no pun intended,” she added,
glancing at the bandage.

“I doubt it; the engine is pretty much DOA.”

“Well, let me see.” She squeezed herself into the small workspace.
“You’d be surprised how creative you can get with 2 detachments of Cardassians
heading your way.”

Tom shrugged. “Be my guest. Sing out if you get anything; I’ll be
sitting over here.” He crossed to the opposite wall and slid down into a
tired crouch.

************ ************

“Well,” Caitlin began as she pulled herself up.

Tom jumped. He hadn’t been aware he had fallen asleep. It was so hot
in the ship.

Caitlin snickered at his startled expression, but then turned serious.
“You’re right; we’re stuck.” She stood up, sweat beading on her brow. “Excuse
me.” Moving over to where he sat, she began rumaging through the emergency
supplies.

“What are you looking for?”

“Hmm, well, I guess this will have to do.” She pulled out one of the
two emergency blankets.

“Do? Do for what?”

Caitlin turned, a devilish smile creeping onto her lips. “Lieutenant,
when was the last time you went skinny dipping?”

*Skinny dipping, what the-* “I guess I was about six, why?” Tom’s
face reflected his genuine confusion.

“Same here, but I think I’m about to change that. I found a fresh
water pond not too far from here. Care to break regulations and join me?”

“Sure, why not?” To hell with protocol; the thought of cool water on
his hot, tired body was way too tempting to resist.

Reaching the pond, she spread the blanket out in partial shade, and
then sat down on it. She pulled of her boots and then began stripping off her
uniform.
Tom took a deep breath and joined her on the ground. He had barely
removed his turtleneck, when she was already up and sprinting for the water.
*Gods, she has a nice body; hell, she’d have to to work out with B’Elanna.* he
found himself noting.
Caitlin took a running flat dive into the water. She couldn’t remember
the last time she had gone swimming in real water; the Pacifica program on the
holodeck not withstanding. She rolled onto her back and gazed up at the
clouds; somewhere beyond them Voyager orbitted. She rolled over and dived down
into the water, pushing her lungs to the bursting point. Surfacing, she stood
up, the water dripping provocatively off her breasts.

“Hey, Lieutenant.” She yelled, giggling at his hesitation. “Aren’t
you coming in?”

“Be right there.” Tom resumed undressing, hoping to sneak in while
she took another dive. But she gave no indication of moving. Standing there
with her arms folded across her chest, it was clear to Tom that she was
enjoying his embarrassment.
Taking off his briefs, he, too, ran to the water and dove in. Swimming
to where she waited, he stood up in front of her, allowing both of them to
finally get a good look at each other. “Satisfied?” he asked, not really
knowing what else to say.

She looked up at him, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “Maayybee.”
she drawled out and with that she dived off to the side.

Tom turned around trying to track her movements. Suddenly, he felt
something hit his legs, and down he went. When he surfaced, she was waiting
a short distance away, laughing.

“Why you- I’ll get you for that,” he playfully threatened, as he
started towards her.

“Only if you can catch me,” she teased, pulling away with smooth
easy strokes.

Tom swam strongly, his longer arms and legs giving him the advantage
in speed. He reached a hand out to grab her leg, but came up with only water.
At the last minute, she had dived and passed directly under him.

“What’s the matter; lose something, Lieutenant?” he heard an impish
voice call from behind him. Her head bobbed above the water only a few
meters away.

“Yeah, an insubordinate ensign.” he replied, a roguish grin spreading
across his face. *Damn, she was good, but fool me once-* “Have you seen her?”

“I don’t know,” she answered uneasily. *He’s planning something.*
“Can you describe her?”

“She’s about the size of an Andorian bull.” Tom pulled himself through
the water, gradually coming closer to her as he circled. “With the looks and
personality to match. She seems to think she’s this clever tactician, but I
think it’s just because she’s never faced a worthy adversary.”

“And are you such an adversary, Lieutenant?” *Careful kid, he’s
getting closer.*

“Perhaps, but if I can’t find her we’ll never know, will we?”
he smiled sweetly.

*Face of an angel and the soul of a devil.* “Even then you might not,
Lieutenant.” Caitlin replied.

“Oh well, too bad.” And with that, he disappeared.

*Damn!* Caitlin dived, too, and opened her eyes. He was coming right
at her, and it was too shallow for her to pass under him again. Kicking off to
her right, she felt his hand graze her foot. She turned and saw that he had
adjusted his course as well, still on her tail. Turning and spinning, she
tried in vain to lose him; her lungs burning for oxygen. She had to surface
even if it meant-. *Damn! I underestimated him again.* Breaking the water,
she gulped down huge breaths of air.

Tom surfaced beside her, breathing less heavily than she, and grabbed
her arm. “I guess I should have told you I was one of the top swimmers in my
class at the Academy.” His eyes glittered, proud of his victory.

“You . . . little . . . ass . . . Sir,” she panted, barely choking out
the last word as a precaution.

He threw his head back and laughed; the genuine merryment lighting up
his entire face. *Oh, gods, he’s beautiful.* Caitlin thought, not sure if
that was really the right word to use. Suddenly, she became aware of just how
close he was to her. His shoulders, his chest . . . She felt a pull at her
own chest that came from more than the swimming she had just done. *Snap out
of it, kid!* Shaking free of his hand, she swam towards the shore. “You may
have won a battle, Lieutenant,” she called back. “But the war is
still undecided.”

Tom watched her pull away suddenly aware of the fine line between
competition and desire. *She was so close, and her eyes- I could swear for a
second. . .* Realizing the moment had passed, he struck out after her.
By the time, he reached the shore, she was already lying face down on the
blanket, letting a few of the sun’s rays dry her skin. Feeling aroused, he lay
down on his back beside her and closed his eyes, trying to will the instinctual
response away.
Caitlin rose up on her elbows and turned her head to look at him.
Sweeping her eyes down his body, she saw his partial erection. Sitting up,
she moved to straddle his body.
Tom felt small, maddening bites and kisses travel from his ear down his
neck. Keeping his eyes closed, he let each kiss build upon the other,
increasing his excitement. As her lips and tongue traced the muscles from his
neck down his chest and stomach, a small sigh escaped his lips. He heard her
laugh softly, confident in her control. Her hand grasped his now-fully erect
penis, and he felt her warm, wet mouth slide over it head, her tongue expertly
massaging and teasing him to the point of explosion. Then, she stopped.
Paris’ eyes flew open. She was still straddling him, but her face was
now near his. “Oh gods, don’t stop!” he gasped.

“Shhh,” she murmured. “I think you’ll like this.” With her hand, she
guided his penis to her own wet opening and gradually slid herself down on him.

Tom closed his eyes, as they rolled back in his head. *Ohh, gods!*

Caitlin raised herself up allowing him to almost escape her. Then, she
engulfed him again with an excruciating slowness, letting him feel every fold
and muscle within her. As she raised herself a third time, Tom lifted his hips
and grabbed her around the waist in attempt to end the agony, but she remained
firm, not allowing him to enter her any further until he lowered himself back
down. Bringing her face to his, she whispered, “So, do you like that?”

“Like? Gods, where did you learn to do that?”

She laughed seductively, running her tongue along his jaw, and repeated
the procedure yet again. As she started to lift up a fifth time, Tom grabbed
her around the waist and pulled her down. “Ohhh, gods,” he moaned, shuddering
as he reached his orgasm. His hands moved up her back and pulled her down,
hugging her to his chest as the last surges left his body. When he opened his
eyes, her smiling face greeted him.
Her self-control, in fact her control over the entire encounter was
maddening. Tom stared up into her taunting green eyes.

“Enjoy yourself, Lieutenant?” she asked impudently.

Without a word, Paris withdrew himself and flipped her over onto her
back. Pinning her arms and legs to the ground, his tongue began to savagely
explore her mouth; then releasing her lips, he moved to her neck. Finding the
same tender spot he had brushed earlier, he grasped the skin firmly between
his teeth.
Her body arched upward as if he had shocked her, and an strangled cry
burst from her throat. One of the few areas on her body that could break her
concentration, and he had found it. She heard him laugh softly in her ear.

“Now who’s winning the war, Ensign?”

“Ass,” she muttered, twisting her head to protect her vulnerable
left side.

He just laughed some more and attacked the right side of her neck.
Slowly, he began to move down her body, exploring her with his hands and mouth.
Caitlin opened her legs wider, giving Tom his first glance at the
glistening pink flesh. “Not yet,” he whispered, sinking his teeth
gently into the inside of her upper thigh. *I’m going to string you along,
just like you did me, you little tease,* he thought. The fingers of his right
hand gently caressed her left breast as he moved upward to take the hardened
nipple in his mouth, slowly flicking his tongue back and forth. His left hand
closed over her other breast alternately massaging and pinching the erect
nipple until she gave a small gasp of tortured pleasure.
She felt his mouth descend on her neck again, branding her with his
lips and teeth. Biting and sucking, she though he would draw out her very
soul. She placed her hands on his shoulders and tried to push him down
towards the yearning heat between her legs. “Please,” she begged, as she felt
him resist her touch.
Tom grinned smugly before edging his body partially down the length of
hers. Now, he was the one in control. Parting her hair, he swirled his tongue
around the tip of her swollen clitoris. She arched her back, a soft “ohh”
escaping from her lips. “Hmm, you like that, do you?” he observed. “How about
this?” Using his tongue, he parted her lips tasting the sweet, salty
combination of his own semen mixed with her juices.
She moaned and thrust her hips forward, inviting his tongue to
explore her more deeply. Tom inserted three fingers into her, freeing his
tongue to return to her clit. Presently, he heard her cry out, arching her
back, as his fingers felt the muscles of her walls contract and release in a
pleasurable rhythm. After the last contraction, he removed his fingers and
brought them up to her mouth so that she, too, would know what they tasted
like together.

“You are so beautiful,” he said, looking into her emerald eyes still
dulled by desire. “Strong and beautiful,” he repeated, kissing her.

Caitlin closed her eyes. She felt him move down so his head
rested above her heart.

“I’m not crushing you, am I?” he asked, raising his head slightly.

She didn’t respond except to push his head back down and gently run her
fingers through his touseled hair.

“Mmmm, that feels nice,” he murmured as his own eyes began to close.

************ ************

Caitlin opened her eyes. The sun had moved from almost above them to
behind the trees; so she guessed at least two hours had passed. Lifting her
head, she looked at the blond head still asleep on her chest. Brushing the
hair off his forehead, she softly called, “Hey, Lieutenant.”

Tom opened his eyes, and planting a kiss between her breasts, he raised
himself up on his hands and knees. He looked into her smiling face and replied
with mock solemnity, “Yes, Ensign; what can I do for you?”

“I don’t know about you, but I could use another dip in the pond and
then some food. I’m starved.”

*Food, yeah.* He hadn’t realized how long it had been since he had a
real meal. *From a tension-filled breakfast on Voyager to this; what a
difference a few hours can make, eh, Thomas?* he asked himself. “Okay, and we
probably should scare up some shelter, too. Who knows how long we might
be stranded here?” he added a wicked grin speading across his face.

Caitlin giggled. She sat up halfway and kissed him full on the mouth.
“Let me up.”

He stood and offered her his hand, maintaining his grip even after she
was up. They walked down to the water; at the edge, he stopped and scooped
her into his arms.

“What the- Oh no, don’t.” A realization of what he probably intended
to do dawned on her.

“Don’t what?” he asked innocently, keeping his hold on her squirming
form while he moved further into the lake. “Don’t what? Don’t do this?”
Swinging her back slightly, he threw her up in the air and out over the water.

“Noooo!” she cried, her limbs flailing in the air.

Tom dived after her, and when she surfaced sputtering, he was in front
of her. Tilting her face upward, he kissed her, his tongue mingling with hers.
When their mounths finally parted, he looked at her teasingly, “Who’s won the
war now, Ensign?”

She thought a minute. “We could say through persuasive arbitration,
both sides have agreed to a temporary cessation of hostilities.”

“Only temporary?”

“Umm-hmm, because you never know when small skirmishes might
break out.” She hooked her leg around the back of one of his and with a quick,
effortless move sent him underwater.

He surfaced with his back to her, and she frowned as he turned around.

“What?” he asked.

“I’m afraid I must inform you, Lieutenant, that your back and neck are
rather sunburned. We really should get you covered up and back to the
shuttle.” Caitlin took his hand and began moving toward shore.

*Damn! Of course, later it’ll darken, but I always burn first.*

On shore, they both used his turtleneck as a towel before putting on
their uniforms. Caitlin had suggested that by omitting his turtleneck, it
would make treatment easier and quicker when they got back to the shuttle.
He agreed; it wasn’t until he pulled on the jumpsuit that he realized just how
burned he had gotten while they were asleep.
By the time they reached the shuttle, Tom was in agony. All the heat
which radiated off his skin bounced back when it hit the jumpsuit. Caitlin
gave him a hypospray to kill the pain and then used the dermal tissue
regenerator to repair the damaged layers of skin.

“Now,” she said, as he pulled the jumpsuit back on. “What are we going
to do about dinner?”

************ ************

B’Elanna touched her commbadge, activating it. “Torres to
Captain Janeway.”

“Janeway, here.” came the authoritative reply.

“Captain, I believe we’ve found a way to retrieve Lt. Paris and Ensign
Matthews. I’ve modified a high density containment field to punch through the
ion layer. Once we have transporter locks on them, the field should protect
their pattern cohesion during transport. We’ve already mananged to reestablish
communications; sensor locks should take only a couple more hours.”

“Good work, Lieutenant. Janeway to Paris.”

Tom and Caitlin both jumped as his commbadge activated.

“Go ahead, Captain.”

Is everything all right down there? Are you and the Ensign okay?”

Paris grinned and brushed Caitlin’s cheek with his hand. “Yes,
Captain; we’re fine. I can’t say the same for the shuttle, though.”

“Understood. Since we have been able to establish communications with
you, we anticipate being able to establish transporter locks in a few hours.
Have you discovered any hemalite down there?”

*Hemalite!* They looked at each other.

“Um, no, Captain; we haven’t. Quite honestly, we were concentrating
more on repairing the shuttle and avoiding heat stroke.” Tom winced. He hated
lying to her, even if what he said was the truth, just not the whole truth.

Caitlin picked up a tricorder. “Captain, since we still have a few
hours, I suggest that we use this time to search for the element unless you
need us to do some other work down here.”

“No, go ahead and begin your search. Janeway out.”

Tom and Caitlin looked at each other and lauged. “Nothing like getting
caught with your hand in the cookie jar,” he joked, his lips closing once
again upon hers.

*******************************************************************************

Two days later, Caitlin stood outside the Captain’s ready room, waiting
for permission to enter.

“Come in.”

“You wanted to see me, Captain?” Caitlin tried to hide her
nervousness. *Decision time,* she thought grimly. Since being back on
Voyager, Lt. Paris had barely spoken two words to her, and everytime she had
approached him, he had been preoccupied with other `tasks’. Puzzled and
angered, she had begun to wonder just what he might have put in his report.

“Have a seat, Ensign.” Janeway sat back and stared at the younger
woman over steepled fingers. “Now that you have some idea of what being my
security chief entails, do you believe that you are up to it?”

“Yes, Captain. I do.”

Janeway raised one eyebrow. “I am afraid I’m not sure you are.”

*Damn! Well, that’s it.* “Yes, ma’am.” Caitlin rose.

“Be seated, Ensign. I’m not finished.” Janeway moved forward and
rested one arm on the desk. “However, five of my senior officers do believe
you are ready, and it would be foolish of me to ignore their opinions, since
they know you better than I. Therefore, as of 0700 tomorrow, you will receive
the rank of Lieutenant, and you will begin your temporary assignment as
Chief of Security. Congratulations.” Janeway rose and extended her hand.

*Five officers! That means, Tom . . . * Caitlin rose, grasping the
Captain’s hand. “Yes, Captain. Thank you, Captain. I will try to fulfill my
new duties as best as I can.” *And if possible, exceed your expectations,*
she added inwardly.

“Very well, then. Dismissed.”

With great effort, Caitlin restrained her impulse to scream, and
instead she walked with deliberate solemnity out of the room.

************ ************

Later that night over dinner, she broke the news to Harry and B’Elanna.

“This calls for a celebration! How ’bout we meet at Sandrine’s in one
hour?” suggested Harry. “I’ll grab Tom, and we can play teams again.”

“Great. One hour.” The two women chorused.

A few hours later, the four were into their fourth game with Harry and
Caitlin up two games to one. As Harry prepared to make his shot, Caitlin
walked over to where Paris stood.

“I want to thank you for supporting my nomination as interim security
chief. Since we haven’t really talked too much over the past few days, I was
beginning to think that I had angered you.”

“Angered me? In what way? Hey, nice shot, Harry.” Tom remarked
encouragingly to the younger man.

“Well, that’s just it. I didn’t know, and after what happened on the
surface, I wasn’t sure how-how to approach you,” she stammered, confused as
ever by his nonchalence.

“Hold that thought. My turn.” Tom walked to the tabel and after a few
shots, cleared it. “Tied, your turn to rack ’em up, Harry. Hey, Sandrine,
four more on me.”

“None for me; I’ve got a big day ahead of me tomorrow, and the last
thing I want to be is late.” Caitlin didn’t care if her flimsy excuse was
accepted or not. For once in her life, she was tired of playing games.

Tom followed her departure with his gaze. Maybe he shouldn’t have
waited so long before talking to her. Still by appearing to have only grudging
respect for her, he felt that his support had carried more weight with the
Captain. *And it’s a lot harder to appear grudgingly respectful when it’s
known you are in bed together every night,* he reminded himself silently.
Still, now that she had the job, it was safe to let her in on his scheme.

Caitlin stared at herself in the mirror. “I give up,” she said to the
reflection. “I’ll never understand him. And yet, on the surface, we seemed
so real, so together. Men.” She shook her head. “Well, I won’t let his
attitude effect my performance.” A determined fire lit up in her green eyes,
as she turned from the mirror.
Sitting down on the bed, she heard the door chime. *Who the hell?*
She got up and pulled on her robe. “Come.”

Tom entered.

“Lieutenant, what can I do for you?” Her voice had none of the teasing
warmth he had heard on the planet.

*Maybe I’ve waited too long,* he reflected. “I want to apologize to
you and explain why I’ve acted the way I have these past two days.” He paused,
distracted by what he saw. Her dark auburn hair was down, falling loosely over
her shoulders the way it had three day ago. She wore a navy silk nightgown and
robe, both of which caught on her figure in all the right places.

“Yes, Lieutenant.” The chilled tone slapped him back to reality.

“Oh, ah, yes. I did it for you. I-”

“For me? You make love to me and then ignore me for my own good? I
think perhaps a more detailed explanation is called for.” She folded her arms
across her chest and sat down on the sofa expectantly.

He crossed the room and sat down beside her. Turning to meet her cold
stare, he began. “Well, I just thought my support of you would carry more
weight if the Captain thought that you had managed to earn only my most
grudging respect, and she wouldn’t have believed that if she had seen us
together between then and now. I wanted her to believe that you had earned my
respect on a professional level, not just because we had sex.”

He regretted the words as soon as they came out. Shooting him a glare
that would’ve knocked a Klingon senseless, she got up and moved away from the
sofa, keeping her back to him.

“I thought I had earned your respect on a professional level. I didn’t
realize that it was only my `technique’ that you admired.”

“I do admire you professionally. Even if nothing had happened, I still
would’ve included you favourably in my report.” He came up behind her and
lowered his voice. “But do you really think the Captain would’ve taken my
recommendation seriously if she had known what we did? Caitlin, please.”
He placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her around. “I didn’t mean to
hurt you; I was trying to help.”

She kept her eyes glued on his commbadge. “Why didn’t you let me in
on your little plan?”

Tom took a deep breath. “At first, I thought I would, but then I
figured if I didn’t your reactions would be more genuine. Don’t you
understand? I was willing to risk re-awakening all your anger toward me
because I knew how much you wanted this promotion. Caitlin.” He tilted her
chin up, forcing her to look at him. “Have I made another stupid mistake and
lost you, too?” His pleading voice was barely more than a whisper.

She closed her eyes, trying to shut out the look of pain on his face.
What he said did make sense in some round-about way, and more than anything,
she found herself wanting to believe him. Without opening her eyes, she
whispered, “No, not yet, Lieutenant.”

His mouth covered hers with a joyous intensity. He slipped his hands
beneath the robe, easing it off her shoulders. Following her jawline, his lips
wandered down to her neck carefully avoiding the tiny bruises he had left days
earlier, which her turtleneck had kept hidden from view. “You are so
beautiful, Cait,” he breathed softly.

She stiffened involuntarily. The last person who called her that was
her father. To the Maquis, she had been Matthews. To Starfleet, she was
Ensign Matthews; even to Harry and B’Elanna, she was Caitlin.
Feeling her body tense momentarily, Paris raised his head and searched
her face for clues. “What’s wrong? Did I do something I shouldn’t?”

“No, no. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Her eyes had a strange light
deep within them; she seemed happy, and yet somehow sad. “I just haven’t
been called Cait in a very, very long time,” she whispered.

“If it bothers you, I won’t-”

“It doesn’t bother me. I guess I really wasn’t aware of how much I
missed being called that. I think I’d like you to use it, Tom,” she concluded.

He smiled gently at her. “Cait, it is then, Ensign. I mean,
Lieutenant.”

She laughed. “I wonder what the Admiral’s opinion of a Maquis and
former border trader would be?”

Paris shrugged. “Who cares? He’d probably say we deserved each
other,” he said, his fingers guiding the thin cords of her nightgown off
her shoulders.

“Tom,” she protested, her arms twining around his neck as the gown slid
off her body and onto the floor. “Tomorrow is my first day on the job.”

“Don’t worry.” His hand cupped one of her breasts, allowing his thumb
to brush teasingly across the hardening nipple. “I won’t let either of us be
late.”

************ ************

True to his word, they arrived on the bridge at 0700 sharp. Nodding to
her new subordinate, Caitlin took her position behind the sensor and weapons
array.
Captain Janeway turned and acknowledged her with a smile. Was it her
imagination or did her new security chief seem exceptionally happy this
morning. *Probably just excited about her new assignment.* she thought.

“Mr. Paris, set course zero-two-zero mark four-five.”

“Zero-two-zero mark four-five. Course laid in, Captain.” Tom spun
around, awaiting confirmation, his expression the mirror of Caitlin’s.

“Ahead, warp 7, Mr. Paris.”

“Aye, Captain; warp 7. Speed and course confirmed.” The young man
replied, as he turned back to his console.

Janeway glance from conn to security and back again. Maybe more had
happened on that planet than Tom had revealed in his report; a knowing smile
danced briefly across her lips. “Engage.”

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