The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea - part 8

Kathryn Janeway looked up at the sound of the door chime and then promptly went back to her reports. She needed a moment to control the rage that was growing inside her at the thought of the confrontation to come. But control it she did, and less than a minute later she bade her visitors enter.

Watching their expressions carefully as they slid into the room she saw that Tom clearly wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else probably. B'Elanna's expression was a mixture of hurt and disdain - did she really think she'd leave this room as Voyager's Chief Engineer? Presumably it had occurred to her that she would forfeit her seniority by interfering, but perhaps she was only now realising what it meant to her - and that she was loath to loose it. So much the better, perhaps she would understand, a little.

Janeway stood up from behind her desk, walking slowly around it to place herself toe to toe with the two junior officers. Tom flinched and looked away, B'Elanna's eyes crashed into hers once, meeting an uncompromising expression before retreating. What had she been expecting to find their Janeway wondered, relief, gratitude even? Surely she had not been that naive.

'Ensign Paris I am relieving you of all conn duties for the next two months - effective today. You will be reassigned to Sickbay and the mess hall and if you've any time left after that I expect you to run training simulations for the other conn officers. I'm also revoking your holodeck privileges for two months.'

It was the harshest punishment she could come up with at short notice and without sending him to the brig. She'd considered that as well of course, considered slinging them both in there and forgetting about them for the rest of the journey. But two months with the Doctor and Neelix would undoubtedly drive him mad and if that didn't not being able to fly and having to help others certainly would.

'I don't particularly want to set eyes on you for the next two months. I would, strongly recommend you keep a low profile.'

'Yes Captain,' his voice wobbled fractionally but otherwise there was no sign of how he felt. Was she wasting her time?

'Is this getting through to you at all Tom? Does the fact that I'm disappointed in you have any meaning for you at all?'

'I'm sorry you find me disappointing.' It was a low blow and they both knew it, too reminiscent of all his conversations with his father not to have an impact.

'It isn't a permanent condition Mr Paris; now go, dismissed.' As he turned away and almost bolted for the door she wondered why she'd felt the need to respond to his pain? For all she knew it was that kind of weakness which had encouraged them to interfere.

B'Elanna wasn't sure what to expect, she'd expected Tom to be reamed and he had been, but two months wasn't that much of a suspension and at least she hadn't sent him to the brig. She'd gone from wanted to punch the Captain to wanting to hug her for her final remark. She didn't know how Tom would react if it seemed that Janeway no longer believed he could not be redeemed. But what was she going to do to her?

'What do you expect me to do with you?' The uncanny echo of her own thoughts threw her for a moment.

'Er, I'm not sure I...'

'Didn't really think about it? Surely you weren't expecting me to be grateful, or pleased?'

'No, I didn't expect that.' Janeway leant on the desk and wiped a hand across her face, looking uncharacteristically frustrated for a moment.

'You know as well as I do that I can't do without you in my Engine room, I could demote you I suppose, I don't think you'd like being relegated to a junior officer in your own domain.' B'Elanna swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry, she'd considered a punishment, she'd anticipated a stormy show down, not this quiet, almost calm questioning, designed to make her feel guilty. ' Will you at least tell me why you did it?'

'It was wrong, what you and Chakotay were doing, it was wrong.'

'Don't you want to get home B'Elanna? Even if you don't, do you think you have the right to take that away from the rest of the crew, because that's what you did today.'

'I couldn't have done it if you hadn't gone to him.' She thought she'd been extremely brave, raising the fact that Janeway was just as responsible for loosing this opportunity as she was. But when she looked up the Captain was staring back at her with solemn eyes and she knew that no one was more aware of her own culpability than the woman before her.

'I'm quite aware of that, I hardly need you to remind me of the consequences of another failure, or that my actions contributed to it. But you've scarcely begun to answer my question B'Elanna, why?'

'Because otherwise three lives would have been ruined.'

'It wasn't for you to make that decision.'

'Was it for you? To send Chakotay to marry that woman like he was some kind of servant? I'm not sure Starfleet would consider that part of the captain's role.'

'It was his decision.'

'Have you asked yourself why he made that decision?'

'Of course I have.' She frowned for a moment and then continued, 'you made a mistake B'Elanna. The kind of mistake you've made before, acting without thinking things through. Well, it's time you learnt what Chakotay and I have known for years. That your actions have consequences and sometimes you are the only person who can bear the weight of those consequences. I'm going to place an official warning in your record, but I'm not going to relieve you of duty, or punish you. I want you to spend today walking around the ship, talking to the crew about how they feel about not getting home, again. Then I want you to report back to me with some suggestions about how you should be punished for your interference today. You're dismissed.'

Feeling a little stunned B'Elanna remained rooted to the spot for a moment, 'I believe I told you you were dismissed Lt.' She didn't need to be told twice to get the hell out of the Captain's sight.

TBC