Disclaimer - Climb the mountain.
Bit of swearing in this one, boys and girls. More J/P than anything, but just friendship.
That phrase just about summed up the majority of his life. A young man with a bright future screwed up and ended up in jail. Then a women turned up and offered him an opportunity, a chance to walk almost freely without the confines of the restraint around his ankle. He took her up on the offer, and in return got stuck seventy five years from everyone he knew.
He had a difficult job adjusting at first, but eventually he did and managed to make himself and the people he worked with forget about his past.
Then came B'Elanna and he was the happiest he'd even been. True, it wasn't exactly blissful. True, it wasn't exactly restful. But they were good together and for a while both of them were mostly happy.
The inevitable break-up happened, of course, although surprisingly it was a quiet agreement over a cup of coffee that it really wasn't working anymore.
Then they're home. And he's ready, he's ready to meet his father. He'd changed, matured since he'd been gone, and he was hoping his father had too. He was ready to talk, confront, accept...just ready to try and make it work.
Only to discover that his father had died two months earlier.
He took another gulp of his drink; felt it burn all the way down into his stomach.
He was sitting in a favourite haunt of his that stemmed back to his Academy days, and a place that he would still have a fascination with aboard Voyager - Sandrines.
Only Sandrine had been long gone. He didn't know if she had died or simply sold it, but the bar had pretty much stayed the same. All that had changed was the name.
Was nothing sacred?
The bar wasn't particularly busy - a few civilians here and there and one cadet at the other end of the bar who could almost be himself.
Asking the bartender for a PADD, Tom typed in a message and asked for it to be handed to the cadet. Upon receiving it he read it and frowned, no doubt wondering just exactly what it meant - 'don't screw up the way I did' - before avoiding Tom's gaze and quickly leaving the bar.
Watching him leave, Tom snorted and returned to his drink, failing to notice the newcomer who walked in.
Reaching up he absently scratched at the days...two days?...three?...worth of beard growth. His father never did like beards. He laughed, afraid to do anything else.
"You know I figured I'd find you here."
In the split second it took for him to recognise the distinctive voice, she was already sitting next to him.
His gaze never left his glass.
"What are you doing here?"
"I heard about your father."
Compassion. He didn't want that. "Shouldn't you be off...explaining command decisions or something?"
She smiled. "Tuvok and that unwavering logic of his managed to convince them that after everything I've been through I need some rest. Right now I'm supposed to be in my assigned quarters, getting some sleep. What about you?"
He snorted, again. "Ditto, pretty much."
They remained silent for a few seconds.
"You want to talk about it?"
That actually managed to pull his gaze away from his glass. She was dressed in civilian clothes, which he half expected. "Excuse me?"
"I know you Tom Paris. I know this is killing you."
"You're a fine one to talk about repressing your feelings."
She wasn't about to let him bait her. "Look at you. Even now you're doing exactly what he expects of you - solving your problems at the bottom of a whisky glass. It's reassuring to know that you've come full circle."
He stared at nothing. "It's the only way I know how."
She was relentless. "I seem to remember you talking out your problems on Voyager."
"Yeah, well." He took another sip of his drink. "I had B'Elanna then."
Janeway shook her head. "Well I'm here now. Talk to *me*. You're not the only one who knew your father."
"I can't talk to you!"
Her voice was quiet when she responded. "Why not?"
"Because," He sighed "You're my Captain."
She touched his forearm, drawing his gaze to where her fingers touched his skin. "Not anymore, Tom. I'm simply another person who understands what you're feeling."
Moving his head away he again looked at nothing.
Apparently rethinking her strategy she stood up and moved her hand over his wrist until she grabbed his palm.
Blinking, he studied her.
"Dance," She instructed.
He blinked, again, not quite convinced this was happening.
"That's an order, Mr Paris."
"I thought you weren't my Captain anymore."
She didn't smile. "If being the Captain is the only way you can deal with me, then I'll take on the role once more. Dance, Mr Paris. With me. Now."
He really should have objected. But...talking about his feelings was impossible. Dancing...yeah...yeah, he could do that.
It wasn't elegant. It wasn't even to music because there wasn't any playing. It was barely dancing.
They avoided the 'careful distance' routine completely, wrapping arms around bodies. Shit, he'd forgotten how short she was. She always seemed so much taller.
Eventually they stopped swaying altogether, still holding each other. She said nothing as he moved his head down to bury it against her shoulder, said nothing as the neck of her clothing became wet. She simply cried quietly as he sobbed onto her shoulder as the patrons of what used to be Sandrines looked on.
e-mail // voyager fic