Disclaimer: All characters belong to Paramount, the order of the words belongs to me.
Written for VAMB's Secret Summer. My match, Tanya, requested J/Riker, ideally set post Voyager as opposed to Academy days.
She turned toward the voice, memory tickling the edges of her mind.
"I thought it was you!" He slid onto the stool beside her and signaled to the barman. "Can I get you a drink?"
She thought about refusing; this was a night to be alone. She'd picked this bar, indeed this planet on the outer edges of the Kronos system, mainly because it was unlikely she'd be recognized. But one glance at Will Riker's smiling face, so obviously genuinely delighted to see her-changed her mind.
"Thank you. I'll have a bourbon."
He gave the order to the barman and turned to face her. "You're the last person I expected to see here. This isn't a 'fleeters' bar."
She inclined her head in acknowledgement, not ready to tell him that she knew that already. "I'm on my way to a conference," she improvised, "and thought I'd break the journey."
His smile disappeared, and inwardly she cursed. Will was too astute not to pick the lie for what it was.
The bourbon came, along with his drink, and he moved it closer to her hand. "My apologies, Admiral. Obviously, you prefer not to be disturbed. I'll-"
"No." She caught his hand. His skin was warm, vital, and reminded her of other times. Instantly she released it. "I'm the one who should apologize, Will. Truth is I didn't expect to be recognized here. However, I'm happy to see you. Please, do join me."
He sat, but the light of pleasure in his eyes was shaded.
Kathryn sipped her drink. The bourbon burned a smooth path down to her stomach. "Can I ask what you're doing here?"
"I really am breaking the journey. I'm rejoining the Enterprise in the next day or so." His hand covered hers, resting for a sharp, sweet moment. "I'd be delighted if you'd keep me company."
She swiveled on the stool to face him, hooking her booted feet over the rail. "I'm not sure I'll be good company."
"The Kathryn Janeway I remember was excellent company."
"We were cadets then. It was different. I'm different."
"We all are." His hand clenched briefly on his glass and he took a deep breath. "I've only seen you once since your return, at the ball to celebrate Voyager's homecoming, and I didn't get a chance to talk to you - you were surrounded by important people."
"I didn't talk to anyone who mattered that night. Only endless bloody admirals."
He snorted with laughter. "You're a 'bloody admiral' now."
"And the worse for it. Did you know that ball was a year ago today?"
"I didn't. Is that why you're hiding in this backwater?"
"Partly." At his quirked eyebrow, she amended, "Okay, wholly."
"I won't tell."
She studied his open, handsome face. He'd always been honest and genuine, Will Riker, delighting in pleasing people. Although their paths had crossed infrequently since Academy days, she knew his reputation, had been aware of his career path and rise through the ranks, as he'd probably been aware of hers. Starfleet officers could be discreet; it was part of the job. But still… Her avoidance of the celebration was her choice, her problem. It wasn't fair to foist it onto another.
"I'd rather talk about you," she said instead. "You've had quite the career: first officer on the Enterprise, about to get your own command, if the rumors are to be believed. And happy in love."
His face took on the momentary far away look of a besotted man. "Yes. Deanna Troi."
"I'm pleased for you." Her glass was empty, she noticed, and his was too, although she couldn't have said when either of them had finished their drinks. She nodded to the hovering barman for refills.
"To love," she said, and clinked his glass.
"Love," he echoed and the silence that followed was both companionable and wistful.
"I'd ask you about the Delta Quadrant," he said at last, "but I get the feeling you don't want to talk about it. At least not now, not tonight."
She snorted. "I thought you'd married a Betazoid, not become one."
"The line is blurred, especially when I'm with Deanna."
She carefully set her glass in the exact centre of the coaster and studied its golden depths. "I've done nothing but talk about the Delta Quadrant for a year. What it was like, how we survived, the allies and enemies, the technology, the Borg, how we actually made it home." Her mouth twisted wryly. "Especially the last one."
"People are curious."
"Then there are the personal questions. Why do people think that they can ask anything of a person in the public eye? Questions they wouldn't dream of asking a friend, a colleague, the man in the street. Don't bother lying and telling me you've no idea what I'm talking about."
"I won't. "
"My love life is my own business."
"There was a freedom in the Delta Quadrant that I miss. You know, Will, for all that I desperately wanted to make it back home, now I think it was better out there."
"Be careful what you wish for - it might come true."
She wasn't drunk, she decided, she knew her limits, but the edge of inhibition had been shaved away, enough to make her a little reckless.
"What do you wish for?"
"A long and happy life with Deanna. A captaincy of my own-"
"They're pat answers, Will. What do you wish for when you're in bed at night, Deanna asleep by your side?"
He took his time in answering. "I thought I wished for the things everyone wants: love, health, a home, children, career success. But I'm not so sure." He took her hand, the thumb absently stroking over her knuckles. "I wish I had your experiences, Kathryn."
She studied his serious face. "You do, don't you? You're not just saying it."
"I know - be careful what you wish for."
"Do you remember back in the Academy?" she began. "We had a date, you and I."
He snorted. "It didn't last long. You ran out on me."
Her gaze switched to their hands. His thumb still moved in a back and forth motion over her knuckles. It wasn't a caress - not quite. "I didn't want to leave. I had to finish my paper."
His fingers tapped lightly on the back of her hand. "We're being honest here."
"What makes you think that isn't the truth?"
"Something rattled you that night. The paper was an excuse."
"You expect me to admit it was your charm? That I knew I wouldn't be able to resist you at the end of the evening? That the distraction of a lover would have taken my focus from my studies?" There was a veneer of bitterness in her words that she didn't try and hide. "Is that the answer you expect me to say, Will?"
His smile was disarming. "You're flattering me. And I don't think you're entirely talking about our date all those years ago."
She swiveled back to the bar and focused her gaze on the colorful bottles that lined the shelves. "Maybe I'll try a Romulan Ale."
"That's illegal. And stop changing the subject."
"You said yourself this isn't a 'fleet bar. Stop trying to analyze me or I'll start to think you have an ulterior motive."
Deliberately, she wove the inner layers of her mind in a cloud. Will might not be Betazoid, but he'd obviously leaned some psychological tricks from his wife. But it was Will's fingers that hesitated for a infinitesimal time before continuing their idle movements on the counter. Kathryn filed the information away.
Two more drinks appeared - bourbon, she noted, not Romulan Ale. Kathryn sipped, outwardly calm, but her mind tossed over possibilities. Something wasn't as it should be.
"When did you say the Enterprise was due?"
"I didn't. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the next day."
"Maybe I'll hitch a lift." Her hand slid into her pocket and she fingered the round object nestling there.
"You'd be welcome."
She'd thought Will's face was open and laid clean for her to read, but now she saw shades of deception in the simplest of phrases. Was it the bourbon? Paranoia wasn't her usual weakness, but there was something discordant, the slightest blur in the weave of time.
It came to her, in a flash of intuition, that Will had his own agenda. The question was, was he for her or against her? Careful, Kathryn.
"Or maybe I'll stay here, waiting to see what happens along." She watched his face.
"That's not the Kathryn Janeway I know. You're a planner. You like to know you're in control."
"Don't all captains?"
"You, I think, more than most." His fingers brushed the back of her hand, a light touch, but one designed to make her notice. "And so I think your presence in this bar isn't the happenstance you'd have me believe. I know how Voyager got home. I know about Admiral Janeway - not you, the other one. The one who sacrificed herself so that Voyager could return through the Borg conduit. I know how that Admiral Janeway obtained the chrono deflector and how she used it to change time."
Kathryn raised her chin. "That information is classified, Commander." Her fingers clenched on her glass and for a moment she considered throwing it at him, fleeing from the bar. But that would be pointless.
Will leaned forward. "I wonder what I'd find if I asked you to empty your pockets?"
She was silent. Lies and bluffs hovered on her tongue, but instinctively she knew Will wouldn't believe her. "It's obviously no coincidence that you're here."
He smiled slightly. "It's far from chance. The Enterprise is in orbit. When one of Starfleet's most notorious admirals vanishes with the chrono deflector and chronexaline she's already used once to alter the time line, you'll understand Starfleet is suspicious."
She turned back to the bar, her hair falling in a graceful swing over her face. "And what if I've been telling you the truth? That I simply wanted to avoid the circus of the anniversary of Voyager's homecoming?"
"I don't believe you, Kathryn."
She shrugged. "Then don't." Setting her lips to her glass she drained the contents and went to slide from her stool. "If you'll excuse me, the company has become tedious."
Will grabbed her arm, and his fingers dug tightly into her muscle. "Not so quick. I have orders to-"
"Get your hands off me!"
"Admiral Janeway, I have orders to-"
And then Will's hand fell away as she twisted and her knee jabbed at his groin. For a moment they grappled under the dispassionate gaze of the barman, then she was trapped, her arm twisted painfully behind her, the edge of the counter digging into her back.
Will shifted, and took a better grip on her arm, and his body pressed into hers, so close she could feel her breasts crushed against his chest and his breath puffed in her face. She braced her feet, sought a purchase and raised her foot intending to bring the heel of her boot sharply down on his foot.
Will took advantage of her raised leg and thrust a thigh in between hers, twisting her arm painfully high behind her shoulder blades. Kathryn struggled, which only made her suddenly and shockingly aware of how close they were, how tightly she was held. She stilled, deliberately relaxed.
"Don't even try it." Will's voice was so close to her ear. "I read the same training manuals you did. You won't lull me into a false sense of security."
As if to drive home his point, his body shifted even closer to hers. Kathryn could feel every hard muscle, every pressure point. Her shoulder burned from how high he forced her arm.
She lifted her chin. "Let me go, Will."
"Give me the chrono deflector."
"I can't do that."
His eyes searched hers. He was so close his body heat warmed her through the uniform. Their aborted date from the Academy flashed through her mind. She'd known then that Will Riker was a dangerous man - but this situation wasn't exactly what she'd had in mind.
Will shifted so that his belly pressed into her hip. "That isn't a phaser in your pocket."
"I thought that was my line," she fired back, and had the satisfaction of seeing his eyes go smoky dark.
"What's in your pocket, Kathryn?"
"You better hope it's not a phaser or Deanna might be very upset."
"Take it out."
"I'm not promising."
In answer he grasped both her hands with one of his, and with his free hand patted down her body. Kathryn raised her chin and stared him in the eye. How long had it been since another person had touched her? A pat down was hardly a caress, but something in Will's touch, in the way his hands lingered on the side of her breast, the curve of waist, made her think of dark, dangerous things, of bribery and appeal.
Will's fingers closed on the chrono deflector and he picked it out of her pocket and set it on the counter. Releasing her, he sat back down, his eyes never leaving her face.
Defeat and despair pushed their way through her mind, but she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of showing it. She sat as well and signaled the barman, asking for a glass of water.
The water was cold, and it washed away the taint of defeat. "Now what?"
Will picked up the deflector and studied it, running a thumb over its smooth surface. "Why did you steal it?"
"You're not stupid. Surely you can work that out for yourself."
"To change the timeline again. But why? The other Admiral Janeway succeeded in getting Voyager home."
"Be careful what you wish for." There was bitterness in her words; she knew it was there, stealing into the sentence that she'd tried oh-so-hard to make light-hearted.
Will was silent, his body tense as he pondered her words. Then he swiveled to face her and picked up her hand, holding it lightly in his. His thumb smoothed circles over her fingers. His touch should have been soothing, but Kathryn was acutely aware of his skin on hers, how his nails were just long enough to scrape her skin.
"What do you wish for, Kathryn?"
"Wishing is irrelevant."
His eyes crinkled. "You sound like your Borg crewmember. I've heard her on the newscasts."
She smoothed her face into immobility. "It's hard to miss her."
Will moved closer. "Is that who it is?"
"Who what is?"
"Seven of Nine. She's with Commander Chakotay. Is she the reason you want to change the time line again?"
Her laugh was deep and unrestrained. "Is that what you think? You know me, Will. You know I'm not easily swayed by love. Or lust."
"You weren't when we had our date. You could be different now." His fingers made another circuit of her fingers and she fought not to betray how he affected her.
Will turned and his legs trapped her body between his thighs. When he leaned forward his breath feathered over her face. "Tell me, Kathryn, is this about love?"
What was the right answer? She tilted her head, slanting a secret smile in his direction. "Think that, if you wish. Or think it's about the Borg."
"Is it about the Borg?"
She leaned toward him, into his space. "The Borg, Will. Can you take the chance that what I'm planning to do will save humanity?"
"Or it could be about getting your girlfriend back."
She rested her hands on his thighs and her lips caressed his ear. "If you're wrong, humanity will suffer."
"You could tell me. I can order you."
Her hand smoothed down his uniform, onto his inner thigh. "I outrank you." Her lips feathered over his cheek. "Instead, you can hand me back the deflector and let me go my merry way. You could be doing a greater thing than you'll ever know."
He snorted. "Kathryn, I know what you're doing. I'm not some Ensign Eager to be seduced-"
She succumbed to instinct and kissed him, rising from her stool to move between his thighs. She palmed his cheeks and caressed him with all the skill and finesse she could summon. There was memory in that kiss; memory of what might have been with him all those years ago, and memory of other kisses since: Kashyk, Chakotay, Jaffen, Seven.
His lips parted-surprise, she guessed-and she took advantage, sweeping her tongue in to taste him. His neck stiffened and he tried to draw away, but she held him there, and kept up her barrage of lips and tongue, and in another few seconds he relaxed, and leaned into her kiss.
His surrender was what she wanted. She pressed up against him so she could feel his stiffening cock against her belly. Her hands left his cheeks to wind through his hair, smooth over his back, and explore the man she'd wanted so many years ago and had been too afraid to take.
And then he did resist, pushing against her shoulders hard enough that she stumbled back. His eyes were hard, cold and flinty, like the moon on a frosty night.
"You won't get around me like that."
She tilted her head and regarded him. "Don't worry about Deanna."
His hand curled into a fist on his thigh. "She's my wife! I love her!"
"I know. But that doesn't mean you can't accept a kiss, freely given. A kiss we should have shared nearly 20 years ago."
He stood up, towering over her even in her high heeled boots. "Admiral Janeway, I'm arresting you-"
"Oh, Will. It doesn't work like that. You don't need to worry about Deanna as this will never have happened."
It took every gram of courage to walk away slowly and not look back. But with the deflector once again safe in her pocket, she daren't risk looking at him, with his eyes hard and angry, his hair wild and tousled by her fingers. She daren't risk changing her mind.
Once again, Admiral Janeway would reset the timeline and set right all the wrongs the journey home had brought.
Feedback? Please. Shayenne
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