Summary: Set early in season two while there was still some rivalry between the ‘Fleet and Maquis crew. It visits Janeway’s experiences on her first mission and her time incarcerated by the Cardassians. Although it mentions rape, it is not what this story is about.
I used Mosaic for the technobabble and for info about the Icarus and Arias Expedition, so credit and thanks to Jeri Taylor.
Big hugs to Kim J for the magnificent beta.
Happy birthday, splv. I hope you had the best day, my friend. Hugs.
Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.
It had been a nightmare of a day – although that was hardly an unusual state of affairs for Voyager and her captain and, if the experiences of their short time in the Delta Quadrant were anything to go by, it was pretty much par for the course. ‘No deaths and no destruction’ had become the yardstick by which they measured a ‘good’ day. And it was amazing, Kathryn thought, just how low the bar could go when faced with the dire circumstances in which they’d found themselves.
The last eight months had been hell.
If being thrown across the galaxy and finding themselves a lifetime away from home wasn’t bad enough, it seemed that at every turn they had to contend with either something or someone trying to annihilate them. There were aliens around every corner – spoiling for a fight, set to wipe them off the face of the universe. Then there were enormous space organisms ready to devour them or their very own ‘home-grown’ traitors bent on retribution – ready to sell them out to any or all of the aforementioned aliens. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Kathryn cringed at the thought of icebergs… it brought to mind that ancient ship, the Titanic; the implication of that particular thought, too grim to contemplate.
Her shift was over – if you could call seventeen hours without a break, a shift. The first four were spent fighting off yet another unprovoked Kazon attack while the subsequent ten were spent in Engineering trying to repair the warp drive, which was still only functioning at minimal capacity – leaving them to limp along at warp one. The final three – the most tedious – involved the reading and writing of endless reports that such an incident generated. And she had to be back on duty in less than four hours time.
Kathryn wondered idly how long she would be able to maintain this level of constant pressure and stress. Not that she had a choice. The responsibility for Voyager’s predicament rested solely on her shoulders; thus the concept of ‘choice’ was a moot one. She’d promised to get this crew home and she would – even if she died trying.
The lift doors opened and after stepping into the turbolift, she called for deck three. For a moment, she toyed with the idea of heading to the mess hall, but Neelix’s overly jocular manner and the mere thought of whatever noxious concoction he might foist upon her for dinner were enough to deter her. Instead, she opted for sacrificing a few rations and ordering something from the replicator in her quarters. It would mean going without three of four cups of coffee over the next week but it would be worth it for her mental and digestive health. If she was really stuck, she knew that Chakotay would lend her a ration or two. The man was generous to a fault.
The doors slid shut and Kathryn leaned back against the wall of the lift. Crossing her arms, she let her head drop forward as she studied the worn patches on the carpet.
She was tempted to close her eyes but resisted the urge – afraid that she might fall asleep standing up – and the last thing she needed was to be found by some hapless crewmember, propped against the wall of the turbolift, going from deck to deck like some bizarre, snoring captain statue. A small smile quirked at the corner of her mouth at the thought.
The lift stopped on deck two but before the doors opened, Kathryn pushed away from the wall to stand at parade rest. Crewman Dalby stepped aboard.
He gave her a cursory nod. “Captain.” Then ordered the lift to deck six.
She answered with a quiet. “Good evening, Crewman.” And then they both stood, eyes front, waiting for the lift to stop at the next deck.
Kathryn could feel the lift slowing and got ready to step towards the door when there was an almighty jolt that nearly knocked her off her feet. The lights gave a sickly sputter and then died.
Engulfed in darkness and surrounded by ominous silence, it took a moment before the muted emergency lighting flickered to life to illuminate the interior of the lift. Kathryn cast a worried glance towards Dalby as she hit her combadge.
“Janeway to…” Her hail was drowned out as another wrenching jolt shook her to her knees, followed by a bone-shuddering bang and crash.
Suddenly, the lift began to plummet.
Dalby reached over to steady her as her stomach lurched into her throat with the inertia. As she grabbed a hold of his arm, all manner of things began running through her mind. Her first thought was that turbolifts weren’t supposed to do this; there were magnets and clamps in place to stop freefalls from happening but they were powered. And if there was no power…
Most importantly, she realised that if they hit bottom at this speed, there would be little left to distinguish which person-pancake on the floor was she or Dalby.
She met his eyes but he appeared calm – or so it seemed to Kathryn. This centred her and she instantly took stock. They needed to hunch low and brace themselves if they had any chance of survival but before she could warn Dalby, there was another bone-rattling shudder accompanied by the screaming sound of metal on metal. With lights strobing and the almost deafening screech of the safety clamps trying to find purchase on the side of the lift shaft, Kathryn yelled over the din.
“Get down and hold on!”
The lift had slowed a little and Kathryn managed to drop to the floor and grab the handrail but, in his attempt to steady her, Dalby lost valuable time and was still upright when the clamps suddenly took hold.
The lift came to a jarring halt and with an almighty thud, Dalby slammed into the floor; the groaning noise of tortured metal unable to mask the crunching impact of his body as it met the unyielding duranium plating.
The lights went out again and their small world suddenly became deathly quiet. Kathryn’s shoulder had been wrenched severely but it was a minor inconvenience in the scheme of things. She’d been lucky. Dalby, however, hadn’t been quite so fortunate. She could hear his laboured breathing and moved on her hands and knees towards the sound.
“Crewman Dalby, can you hear me? Crewman!”
Kathryn tapped her combadge, wincing as the movement pulled at her damaged shoulder joint.
“Janeway to Bridge.”
There was nothing.
“Janeway to sickbay.”
Communications were down and the engines off line – their familiar thrum noticeably absent. Whatever had happened must have been catastrophic. Thankfully, the emergency lighting was fighting against the power shortages and slugglishly came to life again. They were only at about half illumination but it was better than the blinding darkness. Kathryn’s immediate concern was how Voyager and the rest of the crew were faring; she couldn’t afford to be trapped here for too long if her ship was in danger. But until someone could get them out of there, she was stuck.
Her priority now was to assess Dalby’s injuries and render first aid as best she could. After pinning her combadge to her tee, she shrugged out of her jacket, rolled it into a wad and placed it gently under the unconscious man’s head. He was on his side, his groan interrupted by a cough. His eyes fluttered open.
“Crewman Dalby, can you hear me?”
His voice was hoarse but he nodded. “My ribs… bad. Can’t breathe… legs…can’t feel them.”
Kathryn cursed inwardly but before she could stop him, he rolled onto his back and began hoisting himself up.
Kathryn grabbed his shoulders and tried to stop him. “Crewman, keep still, you’ll only make things worse.”
His eyes glazed over with pain. “Have to… ribs… can’t breathe.” Groaning loudly, he shrugged off her hands and dragged himself into sitting position, then slumped back against the wall.
His breathing eventually slowed and he appeared pale and shaken.
Kathryn laid the back of her fingers on his forehead, anger at his defiance momentarily overshadowing her concern. “Next time, I’ll make that an order, Crewman. God knows what damage you’ve done.”
“At least I can breathe now.” He glared at her rebelliously and then shook his head, his breaths shallow. “I apologise, Captain, but… the damage was already done.”
He had a point, but the man was too defiant for his own good. She gave him a meaningful look. “The Doctor’s lecturing will no doubt be punishment enough. Even I don’t want to be around to witness that.”
He didn’t answer but his expression told her what he thought.
She felt his pulse in his neck. It was beating fast but it seemed strong and steady. “Can you move your fingers?”
Dalby wriggled the fingers of both hands.
Kathryn nodded. “Good.”
“Only half paralysed. How lucky can a guy get?”
Tempted to berate him for his truculent attitude, Kathryn bit her tongue until she noticed an amused glint in his eye and softened her gaze. He was probably terrified at the thought of losing the use of his legs. She gave him an encouraging smile. “Even if he does tear strips off you, I’m sure the doctor will have you up and about in no time.”
His hand wrapped around her forearm. “Maybe; maybe not, but its okay, Captain. I’ve been in worse situations and you don’t have to sugar coat the truth. I’ve seen enough to know disaster when it smacks me in the face. There’s nothing you can do to stop what’s already happened.”
Her heart clenched uncomfortably at his sanguine acceptance of the inevitabilities of life. “I’ll get us out of here, Crewman.”
“I don’t doubt that, Captain, but still it’s not your fault. Unless you rigged the turbolift to drop ten decks, you’re off the hook for this one.”
Kathryn wasn’t sure if he was implying that she was to blame for other transgressions, but she shoved her self-recriminations aside and smiled. “Thank you. I think.”
She was rewarded with a raised brow and a smile in return. “You’re welcome.”
Kathryn looked towards the lift doors. “I’m going to see if I can pry these open.” She clambered to her feet, nodding to Dalby before she turned. “You could try raising the Bridge or Sickbay.”
As Kathryn tried to wedge her fingers into the narrow gap between the lift doors, she could hear Dalby unsuccessfully calling for assistance. Unsurprised that no one answered, she knew that Chakotay would eventually realise she was missing and begin looking for her. How long they were trapped also depended on what state the rest of the ship was in and how many crew were physically able to carry out the search. She had to presume the worst, which meant that sensors and transporters were offline along with the communications. She and Dalby could be in for a long wait.
As she’d expected, her attempt to move the doors proved futile. Frustrated, she hissed between her teeth then looked up at the roof access port. It was no use either. Apart from being far too high for her to reach, she risked injuring Dalby further if she tried to leap and find a handhold. The last thing the injured crewman needed was for his captain to crash land on him, aggravating his already extensive injuries.
Damn it. Closing her eyes for a moment, she took a deep breath.
“You can swear out loud, Captain. I won’t be offended.”
Kathryn looked sharply at Dalby, startled by the presumption – despite how correct it was.
He grinned and a reluctant smile tugged at her lips. She quirked her brow. “I don’t know, Crewman. I might surprise you and make you blush. I know some curses that could peel the paint off these walls.”
His smile broadened. “I don’t doubt that at all, Captain. Not at all.”
Kathryn decided to take that as a compliment and, while leaning against the wall, blew out a weary breath. “Yes, well, they’ve had more than their usual airing since we’ve been out here.”
Dalby nodded. “I bet they have. There’s nothing like a well-timed curse to release tension. Definitely underrated as a command tool, although Chakotay could probably teach a course at the academy.”
This snippet piqued Kathryn’s curiosity. “Really? I’ve never heard him swear.”
“That doesn’t surprise me, ma’am, considering the way he feels about… I mean he wouldn’t in front of you because he respects you so highly.”
Kathryn had to use every ounce of her self-control not to react to Dalby’s comment. Healthy smatterings of those very same swear words scorched through her mind as she digested the implication of what he’d said… or rather what he hadn’t said. It appeared that Chakotay’s attraction to her was so apparent that even the lower deck crew were aware of his feelings. This was just another disaster to add to the seemingly endless catalogue she’d accumulated over the last eight months.
When she escaped this damned turbolift, she would have to do something drastic about Chakotay’s behaviour – and hers. She wasn’t stupid; she was well aware that the attraction was mutual, and as such, it had an energy all its own. Since the very beginning of this journey, she’d relied heavily on their uncanny connection to bolster her flagging spirits and constantly took solace in Chakotay’s unwavering support. But if the crew were discussing their relationship – command or otherwise – it was time to make some changes, the topic of this conversation being the first.
“Are you from Earth, Mr. Dalby?”
A flash of concern crossed the crewman’s face when he realised she’d noticed his faux pas but he behaved as if nothing had happened. “Originally, but I haven’t been back since I was a child.”
Kathryn nodded slowly, unsure what else to say, her mind still reeling from Dalby’s admission. “I see.”
“I grew up on the Bajoran frontier, but the Maquis settlements and the Liberty had been my home for the past several years.”
This caught Kathryn’s attention and she frowned. “You lost everything when the ship was destroyed?”
Dalby shrugged. “They were just things. I’d lost everything that was important to me long before that.”
Kathryn met his eyes for a moment before turning away to stare at the wall. Tuvok had told her of Dalby’s outburst in Sandrine’s and she’d followed up by asking Chakotay about the particulars of his case. It was as horrific as it was tragic – his wife, raped, brutalised and then murdered by a group of Cardassians while he was away on a Maquis raid. According to Chakotay, the man hadn’t been the same since that incident and Kathryn could understand why
“I’m sorry, Mr Dalby.”
“If you’re apologising on behalf of the Cardassians or Starfleet, or both – don’t bother.” The rancour in his voice was blatant and biting.
Kathryn blinked slowly and met his gaze steadily. “Neither. I am, however, sorry for your loss.”
Their eyes remained locked, his defiant and angry, hers compassionate and understanding.
Slowly the anger faded from his look as comprehension dawned.
This wasn’t a road that Kathryn had intended to travel, especially with someone whom she didn’t know and who, up until now, had made his antipathy towards her palpably obvious. But in the dim light of the stranded turbolift – with the ship in possible ruin around them – stringent command distance seemed an unnecessary indulgence.
Dalby, it appeared, felt the same way and asked quietly. “When?”
“My first assignment. Over twenty years ago.”
Their conversation had been reduced to a kind of shorthand to help quell the emotional impact of the topic. Talking about it in such a way, Kathryn could almost convince herself that it had happened to someone else.
“Only a matter of days. I was luckier than most.”
Kathryn nodded once – slowly. “As I said, luckier than most.”
Their eyes held for a moment longer as comprehension and a sense of shared suffering swept away the misconceptions and animosity between the two individuals. Their ranks became superfluous; of no consequence in light of their common experiences at the hands of the Cardassians. From that moment Kenneth Dalby was a comrade and fellow survivor; all their prejudices – real and imagined – vanished like a puff of smoke in a breeze.
Breathing deeply, Kathryn bowed her head slightly, her eyes still on his. “Mr Dalby.”
He smiled warmly and returned the gesture. “Captain.”
Suddenly there was a clanging sound on the door of the lift and a muffled call from outside. “Captain! Captain, are you in there?” It was Chakotay.
Kathryn jumped to her feet. “Yes, we’re in here, Commander. Crewman Dalby needs medical attention.” She glanced over her shoulder and smiled.
Dalby quirked his brow. “Chakotay to the rescue.”
She shrugged. “My knight in shining armour. Yours too, it seems.”
“I guess so.” He grinned.
The screeching noise of twisted metal filled the small space, as the doors were finally pried open. The first thing they saw was the grime-covered and very relieved face of their first officer. “Captain, it’s good to see you. Ken, are you all right?”
“I will be.”
“What happened to my ship, Commander?”
“We encountered a pocket of null space, some sort of subspace well. B’Elanna is still trying to figure out why we didn’t pick it up on sensors but the fact that we were only travelling at warp one saved us, although the nacelles were almost ripped from the ship. As Harry explained, it was the equivalent of driving nose first into a deep ditch.”
Kathryn cringed at the visual. “I’ll be sure to thank the Kazon for damaging the engines and saving our lives. What deck are we on?”
“Fourteen?! It was a close call. The crew?”
“Amazingly few injuries. A few broken bones but we were lucky.”
Kathryn turned to Dalby and smiled. “It’s been a theme.”
He nodded at Kathryn, and then winked at his old captain’s puzzled frown.
Chakotay was about to ask what they were talking about when two ensigns came around the corner, steering an antigrav stretcher. With Kathryn snapping instructions, they very carefully laid Dalby on the stretcher and headed towards the one working turbolift.
“I’ll see you in Sickbay, Mr Dalby.”
“You see that you do, Captain. That shoulder needs to be looked at.”
Chakotay’s eyes widened, waiting for the whiplash reprimand that Kathryn would deliver as punishment for Dalby’s insubordination, but she didn’t say a word; she merely nodded to the injured crewman before turning back towards him. “So, have we got any engines at all?”
Taking her uninjured arm, Chakotay helped her clamber over some pieces of fallen bulkhead. “No, nothing yet. B’Elanna’s got everyone who can even spell the word ‘engineering’ working down there.”
“I should head there then.”
“Ummm, no. You’re going to Sickbay first.”
Kathryn opened her mouth to protest, but Chakotay held up his hand. “Crewman Dalby’s orders, not mine.”
Shrugging her shoulders, Kathryn acquiesced – secretly delighting in the consternation she was causing her first officer. “Sure. Sickbay first and then Engineering.”
They arrived at the turbolift and Kathryn looked at it dubiously. “I want some diagnostics on that damaged lift when B’Elanna’s got time. We dropped eleven decks and only had one to go before you would have had to scoop us out of there in buckets.”
Chakotay looked horrified at that mental image. “Captain?!”
“Sorry.” However, she looked anything but sorry and he supposed that the close encounter with her mortality had left her a little less circumspect than usual.
The lift arrived and they stepped into the small interior.
“Deck five.” Chakotay turned towards her. “To be honest, when I realised you were stuck in there with Dalby, I was concerned that he may not come out alive.”
“Oh, thank you so much for your concern. What about me?”
Chakotay turned towards the front of the lift. “Oh, you can look after yourself.”
“Can I now? Thank you for the vote of confidence.”
Kathryn could see him smiling and her face broke into a corresponding grin. Before she could say another word, they arrived on deck five.
She mused as they stepped out and strolled down the corridor. “It’s nice to have been in a lift that’s not screaming or travelling at terminal velocity.”
“Sounds like a thrill a minute.”
Kathryn gave him a peeved look just as they walked through the sickbay doors before moving to Dalby’s bedside. “Crewman, how are you?”
“On the mend; thank you, Captain.”
The Doctor’s acerbic tone made her wince. “Captain, I hear you have been having adventures.” Dalby shrugged as the Doctor continued. “I also hear that your shoulder needs attention.”
“My shoulder can wait. How is Mr Dalby?”
“Thanks to my…”
“Just the facts please, Doctor.”
The EMH looked decidedly annoyed at having the opportunity to blow his own trumpet so callously curtailed, but he grudgingly gave his report. “Mr Dalby will recover. His broken ribs have been repaired as has his damaged spinal cord. He will require some intensive physiotherapy, but he should be left with little or no deficit.”
Kathryn nodded and then stepped forward between the doctor and his patient. “I’m very pleased to hear that Crewman.”
“Me too, Captain.”
After a gentle pat to his shoulder, Kathryn turned back towards the Doctor. “If you or Kes have time, I could stand having my shoulder looked at now.”
“Take a seat, Captain. I’ll be with you when I’m finished with Mr. Dalby.”
“Doc, see to the Captain. I can wait.”
Both Chakotay and the EMH shared a look before turning back to both of the patients.
The Doctor gave a mock shudder. “This cheerful co-operative is giving me chills. What happened in that turbolift and should I check for head trauma?”
Both Kathryn and Dalby barked. “Doctor!” and then grinned at one another.
Chakotay – while pleased to see Dalby’s animosity towards the Captain all but gone – was intrigued as to what had happened in the confines of the crashed lift. He knew he had no right to feel this way, but he was as jealous as hell.
As the Doctor fixed her shoulder, Kathryn was chatting amicably with Dalby and he with her. Chakotay hadn’t seen the man smile so much in all the years he’d known him. It seemed – if given the opportunity – the Captain could charm the most recalcitrant of his comrades.
His presence was superfluous and after deciding that he needed to get away and deal with these unwanted feelings, Chakotay made a move towards the door. He was well aware of feelings he harboured for his captain, but this was ridiculous. “I’d better get back to the Bridge, Captain.”
“If you can wait a moment, Chakotay, I’ll come with you.” Kathryn looked towards the EMH. “Are you finished, Doctor?”
He waved the osteo-regenerator over the joint one last time. “Lift your shoulder for me, Captain, please.”
Shaking her head, she made to leap off the biobed but the Doctor put a restraining hand on her good shoulder. “Not so fast, Captain. Rotate that arm, full range of movement.”
Kathryn did again as she was asked, keeping her face impassive as a twinge of residual nerve pain seared down her upper arm to her elbow. She wasn’t going to let on, however, if she wanted to get out of there.
Turning towards the EMH, she raised her eyebrow questioningly. “See, its fine, Doctor.” She added a conciliatory, “Another wonderful job.”
He gave her a deadpan look, knowing that he was being duped; he tossed the regenerator onto the trolley. “Go, but don’t strain the joint.”
“I’ll try.” Kathryn moved to Dalby’s biobed and patted the man’s shoulder. “Rest well, Crewman, and listen to what the Doctor tells you.”
He grinned and Chakotay was aware of another private joke between the pair; the green monster jealousy bit him again.
After a wink and a smile, Kathryn turned to Chakotay and marched up to his side, giving him a nod. “Shall we, Commander?”
They strode out of the Sickbay doors and made their way to the Bridge.
* * *
While standing in the turbolift as it rose the five decks to their destination, Chakotay couldn’t help himself and had to comment. “That must have been some conversation in the crashed lift. I don’t think I’ve seen Dalby that relaxed in a long time. What did you two talk about?”
He knew it was out of line and rudely intrusive but he couldn’t help himself. Although primarily angry with himself for being so pathetic, Chakotay was also angry with the captain and Dalby for connecting. It was so stupid. He should be pleased. It would certainly make his job easier if they had Dalby on their side. He was one of the last holdouts amongst the Maquis, but his influence coloured much of the crew’s behaviour towards both himself and the woman in charge.
The Captain hadn’t answered him so he turned towards her.
She was looking at him, wearing a puzzled expression. Now he felt really bad.
“I’m sorry, Captain. It’s none of my business. I’m pleased to see Ken so at ease with you. It was just a surprise, that’s all.”
“He wasn’t one of my greatest fans, I know, but we’ve come to an understanding.”
Chakotay nodded without looking at her.
“And Commander, I’ll tell you later what we talked about. It’s something you should know anyway.”
Now he felt like a complete heel. “Truly, Captain. I had no right to ask. You don’t owe me an explanation.”
“Perhaps, but we’re good friends, aren’t we, Chakotay?”
He was tempted to nod enthusiastically and affirm her question with a ‘God yes, and more.’ But instead he nodded once and added. “Yes, Captain, we’re good friends.”
The lift slowed and Kathryn laid her hand on his forearm. “Then I owe you an explanation. So, my quarters when we’re off duty and I’ll explain.”
He nodded again. “Aye, Captain.” And then it was all hands on deck as they again began the task of dragging Voyager back from the brink of destruction.
It was several hours later when Kathryn ordered those staff and crew who had been on duty for more than sixteen hours to head back to their quarters for some well-earned rest. She crawled out from under the Bridge science station console and nodded to her first officer.
“You too, Commander.”
He raised his eyebrow in question and she smiled.
“No need to nag. I’m calling it a day as well. Mr Tuvok, you have the Bridge – or what’s left of it. Call me if there are any problems.”
“Commander, if you have a moment?”
Chakotay nodded and followed her into the Ready Room.
Kathryn trotted up the stairs to the replicator and picked up a pot of coffee that had been sitting in stasis there before walking back down to her desk and gathered up several PADDs.
She looked up to see Chakotay observing her strangely. She patted the coffee pot. “Waste not, want not. Neelix sent it up earlier, but I haven’t had a chance to have any yet. Your choice – coffee pot or PADDs?”
With an indulgent smile, Chakotay reached for the stack of data devices. “Responsibility for the Captain’s coffee is too much for me. What if I spilled a drop? I’m not ready for the Brig just yet.”
Grinning, Kathryn picked up the pot, cradling it in her arms. “I’d trust you with it, Chakotay. Honestly, I would.”
“I’m touched, Captain. I really am.”
Chuckling quietly, Kathryn nodded towards the rear entrance of the Ready Room. “Come on. It’s time for something to eat.”
Together they strode out the doors and to the turbolift.
* * *
They chatted amiably about the repairs and roster until they stepped through the doors of her quarters. The place was a mess. It looked as though it had been ransacked. Voyager’s close encounter with the pocket of null space and subsequent sudden stop had knocked everything from the shelves and tabletops.
“Oh my, it looks like my Academy room after an all night party.” She turned to Chakotay, eyes sparkling. “I haven’t been in here since before my shift yesterday. How did your quarters fare?”
“They looked pretty much like this. Here, I’ll give you a hand.”
They placed the coffee pot and PADDs on her desk before moving around the room – righting furniture and picking up Kathryn’s knickknacks and placing them back on shelves. Chakotay gathered up several heavy tomes piled near the bookcase and was busily restacking them when one dropped to the floor again and fell open to the dedication page. As he picked it up again, he glanced at the words. It wasn’t his intention to intrude, but his eyes were drawn to the handwriting.
“ ‘Bravery is not a lack of fear. It’s proceeding in spite of it. Never forget how strong you are, Katie. With heartfelt thanks and admiration, Owen Paris.’ “
He was still staring at it when Kathryn pulled the book gently from his grasp. She ran her fingers over the words and then silently closed it before placing it on the bookshelf with the others.
Chakotay stepped back and began to apologise. “I’m sorry, Captain. I didn’t mean to pry; it opened as it fell.”
Kathryn merely smiled. “Its okay, Chakotay. In a way, it helps. It gives me a gentle segue into what I was going to talk to you about. But before we start, would you like something to eat and drink? I’m famished and I’ve got a whole pot of coffee to get through. If I don’t eat while I drink it, I’ll be as jittery as a Denobulan flutterworm.”
Chakotay chuckled at the mental picture that evoked. “Just a sandwich will be fine. Thank you.”
“What a good idea. I’ll have one, too.” She made her way over to the replicator and ordered two salad sandwiches and a cup of tea for Chakotay.
After the meals materialised, she placed them on the table before pouring herself a cup of coffee – using a floral cup and saucer that Chakotay had never seen before.
She noticed his gaze. “It’s my mother’s and she gave it to me just before we left on this mission. It belonged to her grandmother and was one I’d loved since I was a child. It was a congratulatory gift for my first command.” Kathryn shrugged then. “It’s very old and I probably shouldn’t use it, but it makes me feel closer to home.”
She averted her eyes and didn’t elaborate further; her companion merely nodded. He understood.
They sat opposite one another and munched their way through most of their sandwiches before Kathryn began to explain. “Crewman Dalby and I found we have something in common. In fact, I have something in common with many of your Maquis.”
“Really?” Chakotay couldn’t imagine what. He’d read her Starfleet records – in fact he’d gone through them with a fine-toothed comb in the days after she’d assigned him as first officer. He’d been ascribing to the adage – ‘know thine enemy’ – although that had been very quickly revised to ‘know thine friend and much admired compadre.’
He’d been impressed at the time. Kathryn Janeway had a flawless record and a plethora of commendations and awards. She was a veritable poster girl for Starfleet. Her admission piqued his curiosity however, and he waited patiently for her to explain.
“The book is from Tom’s father. I was assigned to his ship as a science officer on my first tour of duty.”
“On the Icarus.”
She grinned, her eyes sparking with amusement. “Ah, so you’ve read my files.”
Chakotay nodded, not the least bit apologetic. “Extensively.”
“Good for you. I would have done the same thing under the circumstances.”
He nodded but didn’t interrupt her further as Kathryn continued.
“It was called the Arias Expedition and it was a deep space mission to study massive compact halo objects. Well, that was what the mission orders read, but it was much more than that.”
Chakotay’s stomach began to churn and he had an awful feeling where this was leading. He’d read the mission transcript. They’d been looking at the halo objects from areas close to the Cardassian border. Tempted to stop her from going further, he leaned forward slightly but she noticed his movement and placed her hand on his arm to silence him.
“No, let me tell you. Besides, it can’t hurt for you to understand a little about what makes me tick. We can’t afford to have any misunderstandings between us – not out here and not in our situation. If you can bear with me, of course?”
He nodded. “Absolutely.”
His admiration for her expanded tenfold and at the same time he was overwhelmed by the urge to comfort and protect her. But she was steely and strong and didn’t need his protection – and that only made him respect her more. He looked into her eyes; in the warm glow of the dining room lighting, they appeared astoundingly blue but open and honest. His insides did this strange flip-flop as he watched her smile gently. Then after squeezing his arm, she slowly pulled her hand away.
Her touch had seared through the barrier of his uniform and the place where she’d marked him felt hot and exposed. He had to glance down quickly to check. Looking up again, Chakotay was almost bowled over by the snap of electricity that passed between them – a connection that was both wonderful but also worrying in its intensity. His feelings for her were no secret – certainly not to those who knew him well – but he didn’t want her to know how deeply he felt about her. Not yet. It would complicate their relationship, both personally and professionally.
But there was no denying it; she was an extraordinary woman.
“We were essentially taking readings and uploading intelligence about Cardassian troop movements, weapons depots, fleet size, and other data necessary to insure the defence of the Federation. It was a yearlong mission and for the first six months, it was boringly mundane. We gathered intel and reported our findings regarding the massive halo objects but all of that changed during a supposedly benign mission taken by Owen Paris and me to one of the moons of Urtea II.
“We’d mounted a sensor array there some three months earlier and we were there to upload the information about the behaviour of extragalactic neutron stars and nonbaryonic matter. Pretty dull stuff, but when we got to the moon there was a Cardassian ship hiding in the shadow of the planet. It saw us before we saw them and although Owen tried desperately to get us out of there, a class two shuttle from a science vessel like the Icarus was no match for a Cardassian warship. We didn’t have a hope in hell and we were both knocked unconscious as the tractor beam took hold.”
She took a deep breath then. “I woke up in the dark in a pit about a metre and a half square.” Kathryn was quiet for a moment, then looked at Chakotay and asked, “Would you like a glass of wine? I know I could do with one.”
He stood abruptly. “Stay there, I’ll get it. Red or white?”
He needed to do something, and if moving to the replicator was the only thing on offer, he’d do that. What he wanted to do was rail and bellow in anger; hit something, smash his fist into a grey-scaled face of a Cardi and make them pay for what they’d done. Those bastards had tainted everything and everyone he’d ever cared about; he hated them with a depth of loathing that no man should have to tolerate. It ate away at him and had done so for years.
Suddenly, she was beside him again, her hand resting on that warm place on his forearm. “I’ll have red but I have a bottle. Do you prefer white?”
It was such an innocuous question but it jolted him out of his almost frenzied spiral of hate. Pushing his anger aside, he turned to his captain.
Kathryn gave him a sympathetic smile.
He let out a slightly ragged breath. “Red wine is fine by me.”
“Grab the glasses from the cabinet over there, will you? I’ll see if I can find the bottle.”
Kathryn watched her first officer for a moment while he hunted through the cabinet for the glasses. She could tell that this was affecting him deeply, but he was hiding it well, and she had to admire him for the consideration he was taking in regard to her feelings. He was such a kind soul and she was so lucky to have him by her side.
When he stood, she turned away and began rummaging through the cupboard on the other side of the room until she found what she was looking for. “Voila! Chateau Picard 2367; a good year by all accounts.”
Chakotay held up the glasses and Kathryn smiled before beckoning him towards the living area. “Shall we have the wine in here, it’s more comfortable? Besides, if I have my back towards the table, I won’t feel compelled to clean up.”
“I can put these few things away, if you like.”
“We’ll do it later. There’s not much more of the story to go.”
He was almost reluctant to sit down, but he did so out of respect for the woman in front of him and watched as she deftly pulled the cork from the bottle of wine before grinning at him.
He returned her smile, relaxing a little. “That’s not the first time you’ve done that by the look of things.”
“Years of practice.”
The tension eased even more and after pouring each of them a glass of claret, Kathryn handed him one and raised hers in a toast. “To the truth behind the mask.”
“To courage and perseverance.”
Kathryn’s mouth tilted in a signature half smile, before they touched their glasses together and sipped.
Nursing her glass in both hands, she swirled the contents and studied them as she picked up her story. “I was in the pit for hours; I don’t know exactly how many, but time is a strange beast in situations like that. It could well have been days for all I knew, but eventually I was hauled out of there by Gul Camet.”
Chakotay made a small hissing noise and she looked up. “I see you’ve heard of him.”
“Several times. Nothing good.”
“A well-deserved reputation if Owen Paris and my dealings with him are anything to go by.” She turned to the window and watched the unfamiliar stars elongate and slide quickly past the viewport. “We’re at warp again. B’Elanna is a godsend.”
Chakotay followed her gaze and nodded. “She’s pretty amazing.”
“You met her after a confrontation with some Cardassians didn’t you?”
He nodded. “On a vessel running weapons for the Maquis. She’d signed on as an engineer and had no idea that they were gun running. She’d had to fight off a Cardassian Gul after he’d killed her captain. She’s one tenacious young woman.”
“Smart as a whip as well. Making her Chief Engineer was one of the best ideas I ever had.” She glanced quickly at Chakotay to see if he would react.
His grin broadened and he turned towards her slowly and winked. “Yes, one of your best, if I don’t say so myself.”
Kathryn leaned forward and nudged him playfully. “Well said, Commander.” Then she settled back taking a fortifying sip of her wine before she continued from where she’d left off with her story. “We were both tortured – Owen and myself. He was implanted with a pain device. I’m sure you know the type, a small disc inserted under the skin and attached to the nervous system. I listened to him scream for hours on end. It was brutal. I wasn’t implanted, but when Camet realised that I had no information to offer, his objective then was to break me…” her eyes became distant and dark. “…I was tossed to the guards to do with as they pleased.”
The air in the room had suddenly become cloying and heavy, and Chakotay was having trouble breathing. He’d known, of course, but her starkly worded admission left him gutted. He swallowed the bile that rose in his throat. It brought back memories – terrible ones – of his mother and cousins and the atrocities visited upon them by the conquering Cardassians, plus the many Maquis raids where he’d emancipated the inmates of prison camps throughout the Demilitarised Zone. The broken shells of hundreds of men and women, abused and treated like animals by their captors, filled his mind.
Last but not least, the thought of anyone laying a hand on the woman sitting in front of him made his blood boil and his anger bubble to the surface – hot, molten and destructive. He wanted to kill them all. Every grey blooded one of them.
Kathryn watched as Chakotay’s face darkened and flashes of anger and pain vied for dominance. As stupid as it sounded, she hated doing this to him. It wasn’t a pretty story, but one she was sure he’d heard before – far too often – if she was correctly interpreting the look in his eyes.
Her experience had been terrifying and damaging but she’d survived and she’d taken pride and succour in that fact. So many hadn’t been as lucky as she had – Ken Dalby’s wife’s experiences were a blatant reminder of that. It may have seemed crazy but she had much to be grateful for.
Kathryn had been nurtured and cared for by her family, her friends and Justin. And as a consequence, it strengthened her to a point where she knew she had the fortitude to survive almost anything this life could throw at her. And throw it did. But true to her belief in herself, she’d endured and survived those trials and she would keep on surviving. It was her way to victory. By not allowing them to beat her down and by rising above the epitaph of victim, she had triumphed. She would never be vanquished.
“I’m so sorry, Captain.”
“It’s all right, Chakotay. I came to terms with my capture and rape many years ago, and to be honest, it has given me a perspective that very few – thankfully – have the opportunity to experience. But I don’t feel sorry for myself, nor do I apologise for what happened to me. I survived and it has made me strong and resilient.”
“I don’t want to seem ill-mannered or blunt, but don’t you hate them for what they did?” He paused for a moment and horrible realisation caused his face to turn ashen. “Oh God, and then I brought Seska onboard… I’m so sorry.”
“She had us all fooled, Chakotay. That wasn’t your fault.”
“No, but she was still part of my crew. I feel responsible.”
“Yes, but you know how underhanded the Cardassians are. I imagine she even killed her own people to ingratiate herself – how were you to know?”
He frowned. “True.”
Taking a deep breath, he quashed the anger and bitterness. It was not his place nor did he have the right to bring it into this moment – to contaminate her hard won self respect with his unresolved feelings of hate. He thought he had bested them, moved past the anger and outrage, but Seska’s betrayal had brought it all to the surface again and his resentment was a living thing.
Taking a deep breath, he brought it slowly under control and smiled gently. “So this is what you were talking about to Ken Dalby in the turbolift?”
Kathryn was pleased to see the veil of darkness lift from his eyes, although cognisant of his struggle. She smiled in return. “Not the particulars but in general, yes. He is a very angry man and rightly so. I just wanted him to know that he wasn’t alone in his suffering at the hands of the Cardassians. Despite the fact that he was Maquis and I was Starfleet, under the skin, we had a lot in common.”
“You’d have made a great Maquis, Captain.”
Kathryn grinned. “Thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment. Still, revenge isn’t something with which I have ever been comfortable. For me, it blurs the outlines of what’s right and what’s wrong and it has the capacity to distort the truth. I would like to think that I could look past the immediate gratification of exacting revenge and instead focus on the long-term consequences of my actions; to contain my knee jerk response of retaliation for vengeance’s sake.”
She shrugged, but not apologetically; sitting up tall, she held her head high and asserted, “It may not be a popular opinion – I know I had some memorable arguments with my tutors about my beliefs – but I don’t subscribe to the notion of an eye for an eye. As Ghandi said, ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.’ ”
Chakotay wasn’t quite sure what to say, but his mouth articulated his response before his inner editor had time to stop him. “My mother would have loved you. You are an extraordinary woman, Kathryn Janeway.”
Kathryn’s eyebrows shot towards her hairline and she laughed. “Thank you, Mr Chakotay. I’m honoured and I’m sure I would have liked them, too. And may I say, you are full of surprises.”
He could feel a blush rising up his neck – the first in nigh on thirty years. He reached for the bottle of wine, averting his face as a ploy to hide his embarrassment.
He topped up her drink and then his own before tilting his glass towards her. “That didn’t come out quite how I intended. Here’s to having one’s brain engaged before opening one’s mouth.”
She leaned forward, her eyes sparkling as she teased him. “And just how did you intend for it to come out?”
Chakotay turned towards her after replacing the bottle on the table. They were close. Almost as close as they had been on that first day on the Bridge when they’d stood eye to eye, toe to toe – adversaries who were but a whisper away from being friends. As he looked into her eyes, he realised that they weren’t merely friends anymore. They were so much more. With her revelations came an acknowledgement of her unspoken faith in him as a friend and confidant.
They’d stepped well beyond the limits of Captain and First Officer, past the less rigid border of comrades and compatriots and even beyond the malleable boundaries of deep friendship. Their connection was resonant, soulful and strong. In essence, they were lovers – undeclared, but lovers nonetheless. It was in their eyes, their stance, their body language and in their hearts.
It was there for all the world to see.
Deciding that keeping his brain disengaged was the only way he was going to be able to say and do what he had to, Chakotay quelled all his inner misgivings, lifted his hand, tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and smiled warmly at her surprised inhalation. She didn’t pull away however, and his fingers lingered on the side of her face, trailing down her cheek, over her strong jaw line to trace around her slightly open lips. Her warm breath feathered across the back of his fingers, tickling the hairs there and sending a shiver down his spine. Words suddenly seemed inadequate; so instead he leaned forward and touched his lips to hers.
She didn’t move – not closer nor further away – and with his hand cupping her cheek, he leaned in again and kissed her for slightly longer, pressing his lips more firmly to hers.
Still, she didn’t move and a lightning bolt of horror struck him. Perhaps she was fearful of close intimate contact after what she’d just told him, and he had traumatised her – opening old wounds, plunging her again into the horror of her past. He jolted backwards, whipping his hand from her face and trying to scramble to his feet.
“Captain, I apologise. I don’t know what to say. I was way out of line and I will understand if you want to call Tuvok and have me confined to the Brig.”
In one fluid movement, Kathryn stood and took a step towards Chakotay. His kiss had taken her by surprise – pleasantly by surprise – but, as she did with everything, it took time to analyse her reaction. What her first officer’s lips would feel like as they touched hers had been something she’d been contemplating for quite some time. She’d wondered about his taste, the warmth of his touch and the feel of his body close to hers. Her delay had been intentional; she’d been giving herself time to absorb the sensations. But they were well and truly catalogued now and she had some misapprehensions to amend.
Kathryn needed to reassure him than she wasn’t a frail and timid creature – fearful and fragile – and that it hadn’t been the legacy of her experiences. Apart from everything else, it had taught her that life was to be lived for the here and now.
So, grabbing a handful of his jacket front, she looked him straight in the eye and grinned. “Now why would I want to do that?”
Before he could answer, she planted her lips firmly on his and kissed him back.
It took three rapid heartbeats before the tension left Chakotay’s body and his arms wrapped around her, holding her to him in an almost crushing embrace. He was stunned but delightfully so and as her tongue pressed past his lips to tangle with his, he sighed into her mouth. As he’d insisted all along, she was an extraordinary woman.
They wended their way to the bedroom, finding solace in each other’s arms and in the warmth and gift of one another’s bodies. They made love under the foreign stars and by morning, their bond was cemented in a love declared during the quietest hours of the night.
Kathryn strode onto the Bridge and nodded to Tuvok. “You’re relieved, Mr Tuvok. Go and get some rest.”
“Thank you, Captain. Reports are logged to your console. We are now travelling at warp four and Lieutenant Carey reports that the core will be at full capacity by 1300. Ms. Torres was relieved at 0500 – after a long winded argument with both the Doctor and myself.”
Kathryn smiled. “A woman after my own heart.”
“A comment to that effect was made by the Doctor, in fact. He also – I might add – predicted your self-satisfied response.”
“It seems I am going to have to have a word with our resident EMH. Et tu Tuvok?”
“No offence to Mr. Shakespeare but I shall dismiss myself before the situation deteriorates any further.”
Kathryn laughed. “Sleep well, Lieutenant.”
He nodded, his eyes softening slightly as he looked at his captain and just before he turned and strode to the turbolift. It opened and he stood aside to allow Chakotay to alight. They nodded greetings as Tuvok stepped into the empty lift and the doors closed.
Chakotay jogged down the steps and greeted Kathryn. “Good morning, Captain.”
“Chakotay. I hope you slept well.”
He took his seat and grinned at her. “Like a baby.”
With that Tom turned around and frowned. “You know, I’ve never really understood that saying. My sister’s babies never slept, they always cried. A better adage would be to say that you slept like a drunk or someone in a coma or like you’d been stunned with a phaser blast. What do you think, Harry
Harry rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I think you’ve given this way too much thought and should look where you’re going.”
“Thank you, Mr. Kim.” Kathryn turned and whispered to Chakotay – just loud enough for the Bridge crew to hear. “Do you think he’s after my job, Commander?”
“I don’t think so, Captain, but I’d watch your back.”
“But he’s always behind me.”
“My point, exactly.”
Harry blushed crimson and the rest of the crew laughed. Tom was grinning broadly until Kathryn signalled with her finger that he should turn around. The light-hearted banter set the tone for the morning and alpha shift breezed along in a happy mood.
At 1300, word came from Engineering that the warp core was repaired and functioning at full capacity. Kathryn gave the word. “Warp eight, Mr. Paris and let’s see if we can’t make up some of the time we’ve lost. Is there anything on sensors, Harry?”
“No, nothing, Captain. It looks like plain sailing for the next couple of light years.”
“Good. Commander, we have an appointment with Neelix.”
Tom swung around from his console. “Be careful what you wish for, Captain. At breakfast, Neelix was peeling something that looked like a cross between a football and a tribble, and it had the texture of plasma residue. If you’ve got the rations to spare…”
“Thanks for the warning, Tom, but nothing ventured, nothing gained…”
The helmsman’s lip curled. “…if you don’t count acute gastritis.”
“I get the picture; thank you, Mr. Paris.” Kathryn turned to Chakotay and rolled her eyes.
Tom swung back to the front again but added, sotto voce. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Kathryn grimaced and turned to the Ops station. “Harry, you have the Bridge.”
“And Mr .Paris, try not to run into anything while we’re gone.”
“No problem, Captain. I just point her in the direction of Earth and away we go.”
Kathryn and Chakotay stepped into the lift, both of them shaking their heads. Kathryn smiled. “He’s been like that since he was a kid.”
Chakotay’s face registered surprise. “Oh, it didn’t occur to me that you would have known him from years ago.”
“Since he was about fifteen but I’ve heard all the stories from Owen over the years. He was the apple of his father’s eye.”
“It makes sense now.”
“Why you were so protective of him and took him under your wing. I thought you had romantic feelings for him in the beginning.”
Kathryn laughed. “Romantic feelings for Tom? Oh, please. He’s like my kid brother.” She screwed up her nose. “Me and Tom. What a disturbing thought.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I think he’s got a bit of a crush on you, but then most of the male crew – and a goodly proportion of the female crew – have as well.”
Pivoting back to look at him full in the face, Kathryn whacked his arm gently and laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
He bent close to her and looked at her steadily. “Does this look like my ‘kidding face’?”
Kathryn stared at him and shook her head slowly. “I wish it was. You have no idea how uncomfortable that makes me feel.”
“Take it as a compliment. You’re a compelling creature, Kathryn Janeway, and it’s part of the gig.”
“Well, I’ve noticed you turn a few heads, too, Commander.”
“As long as I turn yours, that’s all that counts as far as I’m concerned.”
“Consider it turned.”
He grinned, then stepped an appropriate distance from her as the lift came to a halt on Deck two. He ushered her out and they walked down the corridor together.
The Mess hall doors opened as they approached. Dalby exited, almost running into the command team. He jagged to a stop and smiled. “Captain, Chakotay.”
Kathryn greeted him warmly. “Crewman Dalby, it’s good to see you up and about. How are you?”
“Good as new, Captain. My ears are still ringing from the Doctor’s droning, but apart from that, I’m fine.”
“I’m very pleased to hear it.”
“How’s your shoulder, Captain?”
She whispered conspiratorially. “A little bit stiff still, truth be told, but I’m not going near Sickbay if I can avoid it.”
“I don’t blame you. Anyway, I’ve got to get back to work. If you’re having lunch, just a warning – avoid the grey mush. We’ve decided that it’s actually a weapon of mass destruction masquerading as food.”
“Thanks for the heads up, Ken.”
“See you later, Chakotay. And Captain, enjoy lunch.” He winked and moved down the corridor to the lifts.
“I think I’m minus a Maquis. He’s one of your posse now, Kathryn.”
She laughed and after grabbing his elbow, propelled him into the Mess hall while staying close by his side. They collected their meals, taking Ken Dalby’s advice and skipping the grey mystery concoction before taking their usual seats over by the window.
Chakotay smiled as he listened to Kathryn talk about one of the anomalies they’d passed a few days beforehand. But while he listened, he cast his eyes around the room. At various tables, there were several Maquis seated in amongst their Starfleet counterparts but as he met their eyes, they smiled and nodded. It appeared that Ken had spoken to his friends and there was a subtle but noticeable shift in the tone of the Maquis crew’s attitude.
Young Tabor was the first to walk past and greet the Captain.
Kathryn looked up and smiled before returning the greeting. Mariah Henley was next and the captain placed her fork on her plate as she watched the woman leave the Mess hall.
Her eyes then met Chakotay’s in a puzzled frown. Soon afterwards, both Ayala and Jarvin stopped by for a few minutes to discuss a Parrises Squares tournament they were organising in holodeck two for the following evening.
“Captain, you’re most welcome to join in.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant, I’ll think about it. It’s been a while, but I was a keen player in my youth.”
Smiling broadly, Mike Ayala casually leaned on Chakotay’s shoulder. “Well, that would have been only a few years ago, Captain, I’m sure you haven’t forgotten a thing.”
Jarvin groaned and Chakotay shrugged off his arm and laughed. “Mike, get out of here before I toss your sorry ass in the Brig.”
Kathryn was chuckling along with Chakotay and Jarvin but Mike Ayala seemed undaunted. “I’ll partner up with you, Captain. Just give the word.”
“The word is vamoose, Mike.” Jarvin grabbed his sleeve and tugged. “Come on before we both finish up in the Brig. See you later, Captain, Chakotay.”
Ayala threw one more blinding smile Kathryn’s way and then turned and left with Jarvin who berated him the whole way to the exit.
Kathryn laughed aloud. “Who are these people?”
“They’re your crew by the look of things.”
“Crewman Dalby do you think?”
“I’d say so but don’t worry, Kathryn, he would have been discreet.”
She shrugged. “It’s a long time ago now and if knowledge of what happened to me can bring about such a positive change, I don’t have a problem with people knowing.”
“What Owen Paris wrote was true and you are the embodiment of that sentiment. I don’t think I’ve met anyone braver or more courageous than you, Kathryn.”
“Yes, you have. They’re all around us. Look at your crew and what they’ve had to endure. Look at yourself. I’m aware of your history, too. It comes down to a simple matter of survival. We all do it. Being thrown out here, away from family and loved ones, has been a test for all of us and…” She looked around at the contented and calm faces of her crew before letting her gaze fall back to the man sitting opposite her, his eyes filled with love. “I think we’re all doing just fine.”
Feeling some of the weight of discontent lift from his shoulders, Chakotay had to agree. Being thrown halfway across the galaxy might have been the best thing that happened to all of them.
He leaned across the table and rested his hand over hers. “You’re right, Kathryn, we are and we’ll continue to be fine.” His eyes glinted and a wicked grin lit his face. “How about we show these youngsters how to play Parrises Squares tomorrow night?”
With a decisive nod, she agreed. “You’re on, Commander. Let’s do it.”