Conflagration

Summary:A Dreadnought episode addition and a fairly angsty piece. It does, however, have the obligatory happy ending. Chakotay has an extreme reaction to Kathryn’s intention to ‘go down with the ship’.

Rated PG13

Thank you to Brianna for an excellent beta. You had your work cut out for you on this one, but I’ve again fiddled with it, so any mistakes are mine. I’m going to have to learn to leave well enough alone.

Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.


It had taken the best part of a day to retrieve all the crew and escape pods from on and around Rakosa V. They’d been spread from one end of the planet to the other, and several of the pods had to be beamed aboard from where they’d been left stranded in low orbit.

Kathryn shook her head and took a steadying breath. Voyager and her crew had survived yet another close call, avoiding death and destruction by a hair’s breadth.

It had been like the climax of a cheap holonovel – frantically evacuating the ship, then calling off the self destruct with only a minute to spare. If Voyager’s destruction and the crew’s lives hadn’t been at stake, she could almost have laughed at the pathetic cliché. But as things stood, it was no laughing matter. Her insides still clenched uncomfortably when she thought of how close they’d come to losing the ship and their lives. They’d had some near misses over the last eighteen months but this had been the closest by far. She suppressed a shudder. It was the stuff of nightmares.

She’d just sent Tuvok to his quarters for some well earned rest, and planned to head to hers shortly, but she was waiting for Chakotay to arrive for a quick debrief. He’d beamed back aboard several hours ago and she was a little surprised that he hadn’t been to see her already. Like her, he would be greatly relieved that they were all safe. He’d been very unhappy about having to leave, but he’d done as she’d asked and organised the crew’s evacuation.

It had been reassuring to know he was in charge. If worse had come to worst, she knew he would be there to ably take the reins of command. Her faith in him was absolute, and in those last terrifying minutes, it had put her mind at ease to know that he would fulfil her promise and get their crew home.

Kathryn checked the time again. 19:46 . Where the hell was he? He’d been worried, she knew that. The fear and desperation in his eyes as he’d clung to her arm at the tactical station, insisting that he wasn’t going to leave her, was still vivid in her mind. His spontaneous and heartfelt reaction to her intent to sacrifice herself had touched her deeply and she knew he’d had to battle his own demons in order to leave her behind. And, truth be told, she’d had her own regrets to overcome, and had been worried about him too.

In the almost year and a half since they’d arrived in the Delta Quadrant, she and her first officer had developed a deep and enduring friendship – one she cherished and relied upon. They’d become an inventive and skilful command team and it seemed that together they could accomplish almost anything. He was reliable and dependable, her pillar of strength, but… he was also decidedly absent at the moment and she was a little miffed that he hadn’t come directly to the bridge from the transporter room.

Perhaps there were more pressing matters that required his attention, but she was surprised that he hadn’t at least contacted her.

It wasn’t a regulation, especially when they were off duty, but they always made a point of touching base with one another when they returned from an away mission or shore leave. It was simply something they did, more so out of habit these days than anything else. So the fact that he hadn’t contacted her set her internal alarm to yellow alert.

The Doctor had informed Kathryn a short time ago that B’Elanna had been released from sickbay and would, thankfully, make a full recovery. It occurred to Kathryn that perhaps Chakotay was with her.

The young engineer felt responsible for the incident and had been upset and rather guilt ridden over the part she’d played in the near disaster. Several years before, on the Liberty, under Chakotay’s command, they’d stumbled upon the malfunctioning Cardassian weapon. Against Chakotay’s explicit orders, B’Elanna had reprogrammed the missile to work for the Maquis and to target a Cardassian fuel depot on Aschelon five. Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined that the weapon would end up here in the Delta Quadrant, mistaking the peaceful planet of Rakosa V, for that Cardassian depot.

Both B’Elanna and Rakosa V had made a lucky escape. The young engineer suffered some minor burns when they’d beamed her from the exploding warhead and the planet had escaped unscathed. Kathryn shuddered. It could have been so much worse.

B’Elanna’s lack of forethought had almost caused a catastrophe of untold proportions, but her bravery, and her determination to destroy the warhead had been atonement enough in Kathryn’s eyes, and they’d all learned a valuable lesson. Chakotay was probably counselling B’Elanna, and helping her deal with her emotions over the incident. Kathryn nodded to herself. He was B’Elanna’s dear friend, so of course that’s where he’d be, and she was certain to hear from him soon.

To distract herself, Kathryn tidied her desk and sorted through a few padds, but she was troubled and knew that hearing Chakotay’s calm voice would settle her unsteady nerves. She checked the chronometer, it was after 2000 and decided that she couldn’t wait any longer. Not wanting to disturb him if he was talking to B’Elanna, she asked the computer first for his whereabouts.

The tinny voice answered. “Commander Chakotay is in his quarters.”

She frowned. Odd. She assumed he’d be in B’Elanna’s quarters. “Computer, is the commander alone?

“Affirmative.” Odder still, and it put pay to the ‘B’Elanna counselling’ theory.

“Computer, status of Commander Chakotay?”

“Commander Chakotay is awake and alert.”

She tapped her combadge. “Janeway to Chakotay.”

“Chakotay here.”

Her shoulders relaxed. “Chakotay, it’s good to hear your voice. I’m glad you’re back safely. I’m heading to my quarters now and wondered if you’d like to join me for a coffee and an unofficial debrief?”

“No, thank you, Captain, I’m very tired and I was about to go to bed. I’ll give you my report in the morning. Goodnight.” His voice was toneless and wooden.

Kathryn took a few seconds to answer. “Oh, of course. Good night, Commander.”

The line went silent and Kathryn tried to quell the sense of unease that had wedged itself in her middle. He didn’t sound right, but she had no idea why. That internal alarm was moving rapidly towards red alert.

Kathryn spoke briefly to the bridge crew before she gathered up a few unfinished padds and, with a growing sense of foreboding, she left the ready room by the side entrance.

The lift deposited her on deck three and she made her way to her quarters. After keying in the code, her door slid open, but before she stepped over the threshold, she couldn’t help glancing up the corridor to Chakotay’s door. There was definitely something wrong. She could feel it in the air.

Setting the padds down on her table, she slipped off her jacket and ordered a coffee from the replicator. That was when she heard it – a loud thump from next door. Looking towards the wall she shared with Chakotay’s quarters, she frowned. He must have dropped something. Something big. Standing still, she listened for a moment. All was quiet again so took her coffee over to the couch, and slumped into the comfortable seat, plonking her feet onto the coffee table. She leant back with a sigh. After the stress of the day it was good to have a few moments to herself before tackling the last of the reports. Her cup was at her lips and she was about to take a sip when there was another thump from next door, this time accompanied by a loud crash. It startled her and she spilled her coffee down her front. “What the…?”

Placing her cup on the table, she brushed at the spill and tapped her combadge at the same time. “Janeway to Chakotay. Are you all right, Commander?” Silence. Then something heavy hit the adjacent wall. Standing up she walked towards it, tapping her badge on the way. “Commander Chakotay, please respond.”

Still nothing. Fear bit into her. “Janeway to Tuvok.”

“Tuvok here, Captain.”

“Tuvok, I want a security team to Commander Chakotay’s quarters immediately. I’ll meet you outside.”

“Aye, Captain. Tuvok out.”

Kathryn grabbed her phaser from her desk and jogged up the corridor to Chakotay’s door. She paced agitatedly as she waited for Tuvok. Where the hell was he?

She had to hold herself back from charging through the doors. This was Chakotay and he could be in real trouble. Her training overrode her instincts, but only just. Her heart was screaming at her to go to him. The banging and crashing from inside his quarters was getting louder and she took a step towards his door just as Tuvok and the security team rounded the corner at a jog. It took Tuvok only a second or two to assess the situation and, indicating that she and the team should stand away from the door, he keyed in his override and they burst into the first officer’s quarters with phasers at the ready.

Kathryn stood in the doorway with her phaser poised, but her arm dropped to her side and her eyes widened in shock at the scene in front of her.

Chakotay was standing in the centre of his room holding a chair above his head. The room was in disarray and he was surrounded by destroyed furniture and shattered personal effects.

He took a threatening step forward and growled at Tuvok. “Get the fuck out of here, Vulcan.”

Tuvok stood his ground. “Commander, put down the chair. We do not wish to hurt you.”

Kathryn stared at her first officer. He was shirtless, with sweat pouring down his face and chest, and his breathing was coming in jagged rasps. With narrowed eyes darting back and forth between the members of the security team and Tuvok, he menaced. “Call off your goons, Tuvok, or so help me.”

He took another step towards them and Tuvok raised his weapon.

Kathryn jolted out of her shocked inertia and snapped, “Lower your weapons!” Chakotay’s eyes met hers and held. She took a few tentative steps into the room. “Chakotay, please, put down the chair.” His arms were trembling with the effort of holding it aloft. “Chakotay, please.”

Holstering her phaser she took another step forward and spoke in soothing tones as she moved towards him. She held her hands out in a placating gesture. “I heard the noises and I was worried about you so I called security. We’re not here to hurt you.”

A look of naked anguish passed over his face. “Too late.”

Kathryn’s insides clenched at the look of undisguised pain on his face. She had no idea what had triggered this outburst but she needed to find out. “Tuvok, you’re dismissed. I’ll handle this.”

“Captain, I do not think that….”

“Tuvok. Out now!”

“Aye, Captain.”

Her eyes hadn’t left Chakotay’s.

The security team followed Tuvok from the room, holstering their phasers as they went. The door hissed shut behind them.

Chakotay’s arms couldn’t hold the chair aloft any longer and it dropped to the floor with a resounding thud. Kathryn twitched, but kept her eyes on him and took a deep breath. “Chakotay, what’s wrong?”

A harsh laugh jarred the silence and his eyes flashed. “What’s wrong?” Taking a shuddering breath he collapsed onto his couch and dropped his head into his hands. “Spirits, what isn’t wrong?” He ran his fingers through his hair and looked up at her. “I’m sorry.”

Kathryn’s shoulders relaxed a touch. The immediate danger had passed and she looked around her. It was a mess. Broken furniture, and shattered belongings were strewn all around the room. It looked like a tornado had gone through. Much of the debris was piled up against the wall that adjoined her quarters. It didn’t take a trained counsellor to figure out that she was in some way responsible for triggering this tirade, but for the life of her she had no idea what had been the cause.

She didn’t move any further into the room but asked in a soothing voice. “Chakotay, talk to me please. What’s happened? I want to help. Are you ill?”

He shook his head, then looked up at her with the saddest look she’d ever seen. “Chakotay?”

She took a few tentative steps towards him, but stopped when he kicked at the remains of his coffee table and stood up abruptly, turning on her. “I don’t want your pity, Captain.” He ran his hand through his hair again and looked towards the ceiling. “God, what a nightmare.” He began to pace agitatedly. “Just leave. I’ll be fine. Let me blow off some steam and I’ll be back to your passive, ‘yes man’ by tomorrow at duty call.”

It was her turn to look hurt. “Chakotay…. What? I don’t understand. My ‘yes man’? Please tell me what’s wrong. I want to help.”

“Your help? I don’t need it. You’ve helped enough. I understand, Captain. Someone has to be the patsy and it may as well be the token Maquis.”

Her command training came to the fore, covering her hurt and she snapped at him. “Commander! That’s uncalled for. I want you to tell me what’s wrong. That’s an order.”

He swung around and marched right up to her, his face only inches from hers. With her fists clenched tight, she made a concerted effort not to cringe. He was formidable when angry.

His dark eyes were sparking with anger and he snarled at her. “An order!? Well, I suppose that fits. Order me here, order me there. Well, you can order me out a fucking airlock for all I care. I’ve had enough. Do you hear me!? Enough!”

Kathryn glared at him, refusing to be intimidated. “Commander! If you can’t use a civil tone, then I’m leaving.” She would speak to him later when he’d cooled off. Whatever it was that was eating at him, she had no idea, but if he kept this up, she’d have no other option but to put him in the brig. Retreat was the best option for the moment before either of them said or did something that was irretrievable.

Turning she took a step towards the door but before she knew what was happening he grabbed her arm, swung her around, and slammed her up against the bulkhead. He hissed into her face. “Don’t you dare turn your back on me! I’m not some no-name ensign you can order about and discard on a whim.”

His fingers were biting into the soft flesh of her arms and his hot breath was blasting into her face. The solid bulk of his body was pressed into hers and she could feel the coiled power of him as he held her against the wall. She looked up at him and successfully tamped down her fear. In as steady a voice as she could muster she asked softly but clearly, “Let me go please, Chakotay.”

He stared at her, his eyes dark and forbidding. It was almost as if he didn’t recognise her. She repeated her plea, but this time her voice betrayed an edge of fear. “Chakotay, it’s me. It’s Kathryn. Please, let me go. You’re hurting me.”

Suddenly the look in his eyes shifted from anger to anguish and he stared at her for a long moment. His hands dropped and he took a small step away from her. He was trembling and without thinking Kathryn raised her hand and rested it on his bare chest. It was meant to soothe and give comfort, but it triggered something else and with a guttural groan, he stepped forward and hauled her into his arms. Holding her tight, he sobbed into her hair. “Oh God, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.” He was crushing her against his chest and holding her so tightly she could barely breathe.

His harsh breaths blew across her neck as he rasped. “I thought I’d lost you. You chose Tuvok and sent me to live alone. I can’t do it. Not without you.” He held her in a bruising embrace, grasping and tugging at her in his distress, almost as if he wanted to pull her into him and keep her safe inside him. All the while, as he was holding her, he pleaded in an agonised whisper. “I can’t lose you too. I just can’t.”

Her heart nearly shattered as she listened to his anguished words and her eyes burned with unshed tears. Slowly her arms slid around him and she held him, her hands stroking up and down his back, as she tried to soothe and calm him.

She knew of the tragic loss of his family and she tried to reassure him. “We’re fine, Chakotay. We’re all fine.”

Kathryn could feel his body shudder and strain against her but with her words he pushed himself away from her and, with an angry hiss, strode over to the other side of the room. He stared at his reflection in the viewport and scrubbed at his face, then turned to her. His voice soft but firm. “No, we’re not ‘all fine’, Captain. We’re far from fine. I can’t do this. I really can’t. You’ll have my resignation first thing in the morning.”

Kathryn was stunned. “What!?”

He stood his ground. “You heard me. I’m resigning as first officer.”

She couldn’t believe he was doing this. “But why? I need you. How am I supposed to do this…” Her voice faded and she finished the sentence in her mind…. ‘without you.’ She felt sick but as she looked at his determined face, the awful realization hit her. It struck, like a phaser blast right in the middle of her chest.

She understood why he was so distressed.

If she felt like this with the just thought of him resigning, how must he have felt having to leave her behind to die? It wasn’t hard to imagine the searing sense of loss. Had their positions been reversed, she knew she would have been equally devastated.

Staring at him with shocked eyes, the emotions flowed thick and fast and she was ill prepared to deal with the maelstrom. Whispering an anguished, “Oh God.” She swallowed past the hot burn of tears and turned and left his quarters.

The harsh lights of the corridor greeted her, and as the doors swished shut behind her, she jumped, the hiss sounding loud and ominous in the quiet.

Tuvok was waiting a little way down the corridor and moved towards her as she exited. He looked at her questioningly but Kathryn was incapable of talking about anything at the moment. With a distracted wave of her hand and a weary shake of her head she dismissed him.

Dragging her emotionally battered body to her door, she keyed in the code and disappeared into the safe haven of her quarters. She slumped back against the closed doors and screwed her eyes shut in an effort to fight the rising tide of disquiet. Finally she shook herself, and pushing herself away from the door, she began to pace – back and forth, back and forth as she tried to think of a way around this awful dilemma. It was blindingly obvious what the problem was now, but she could barely bring herself to think of it, let alone articulate it.

However, her mind and heart had other ideas and the realisation swelled and crashed through her poorly constructed barriers.

They were in love with each other.

With her heart pounding and her stomach roiling she jagged to a halt in the middle of her quarters. The truth was like a gut punch and she wrapped her arms protectively around her middle. It was too awful and, at the same time, too wonderful to conceive. Her first officer was in love with her and, to make matters so much worse, she was in love with him. Oh God. What was she going to do? What the hell was she going to do? She wanted to laugh at the incongruity of her predicament. Joy and fear did battle and neither were the victor.

In the end she laughed mirthlessly, yet felt like crying. How could she have been so stupid not to have realised? He was constantly in her thoughts. Always there. His presence hovered behind all her conscious thoughts and lately he’d even been present in her unconscious ones. Her dreams of him were vivid and provocative and she’d successfully dismissed them as stress related fantasies of no consequence. She rubbed her hand distractedly across her forehead… talk about consequences. What the hell were they going to do?

Kathryn strode into her bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. Had she been transformed by this realisation? No, not really. The face that stared back at her was the same, and although her eyes appeared unnaturally large in her pale face and there was something that looked like fear in their blue depths, it was still Kathryn who stared back at her.

Tugging the pins from her hair she let it tumble down her back, then stripped off her clothes and stepped into the shower. Twenty minutes later, after standing beneath the scalding water, she emerged through the steam. Swiping the mist from the mirror she stared at herself again. There was little difference. Her skin was now rosy and her hair was plastered to her head, but her eyes still held the same tortured look and she was no closer to a resolution to their problem. Drying herself quickly, she donned an old sweater and some comfortable pants. She ordered a coffee and sat on her couch looking out at the peaceful planet of Rakosa V.

Ignoring her own problems for a moment she turned her mind to today’s near calamity. They really had been very lucky. It all could have gone so horribly wrong. The potentially dire consequences were hard to equate with the lush and peaceful world spinning lazily below. If they hadn’t stumbled upon the warhead, they could very well have been visiting the shattered remains of this planet. They had a lot to be grateful for. Against the odds, B’Elanna was alive, so were she and Tuvok. The rest of the crew had survived their evacuation and Voyager was still in one piece. The only real casualty of this whole episode had been Chakotay’s peace of mind, and subsequently hers.

She replayed in her mind his anguished words… ‘You chose Tuvok and sent me to live alone’.

Acknowledging now, that it had not been a conscious choice at all, but rather, one that her heart had made for her. She couldn’t have contemplated asking him to stay behind, knowing that he would die. Rightly or wrongly, Tuvok’s death was an acceptable concept, but not Chakotay’s. That she would never be able to accept. The real reason she’d sent him with the crew, was to keep him safe. Her insides clenched and she was almost sick with the thought. She swallowed hard. What a disaster.

Unwittingly, in doing what she’d done, she’d undermined everything: protocols, regulations, her captaincy. It went against everything that she’d ever been taught and now, to top it all off, Chakotay had resigned. There had to be some way of convincing him to stay. She needed him there beside her. Didn’t he realise how much she relied on his steady presence and his calm reassurance?

The mere thought of captaining Voyager without him and facing the Delta Quadrant’s adversities and hardships alone, filled her with dread. Oh, she’d manage, but she wouldn’t survive. Not as a whole person anyway. He was the lynch pin on which all this hung together. He was her anchor and her touchstone. His loyalty and devotion to her and the crew was something that she’d never underestimated, and she’d always known that without him, captaining this vessel would be virtually impossible. He acted as the buffer and conduit between her and the crew. With his uncanny knack of being able to balance friendship with command, he had a close and caring relationship with the crew. Their command style was a perfect example of synchronicity – she set the course, but he was the wind that filled the sails.

But more importantly, not only was it impossible to imagine making this journey without him, she didn’t want to. The loneliness of command could be overwhelming at times and out here, in the far reaches of the galaxy, she knew, without a doubt, that the isolation and solitariness would be the death of her.

After all her mental and emotional machinations she found she was left with little choice. Logic dictated what she had to do. If they were both to survive, she needed Chakotay by her side, and if the only way for him to remain as her first officer was for them to be together, then that was how it must be. It was hardly a sacrifice. She loved him and longed to be with him, and as far as regulations and protocols were concerned, well… they would deal with the ramifications when – and if – they became an issue. They were seventy years from Earth, and the likelihood of them making it back in their lifetime was remote, and so the issue was, for all intents and purposes, moot. With her mind made up she moved towards her door and taking a deep breath, she triggered the opening mechanism and stepped forward into her new future.

Each step she took up the corridor to his door confirmed her purpose. There was a lifetime of travel ahead of them and she didn’t want to face it alone. She loved him, and needed him. He loved her and needed her. There was only one solution and she’d challenge a Vulcan to out-logic her on this one. By the time she was standing at his door, she was resolute.

Without a doubt, they were each other’s future and with that thought foremost in her mind she rang the chime.

The doors slid open and she stepped into his darkened quarters. The room was still a mess and she looked into the dim interior trying to find him. “Chakotay?” He didn’t answer and she squinted into the darkness. “Lights to 25 percent.”

“Computer, belay that order.”

Her head turned towards his voice.

“Captain, what are you doing here?”

She began to move towards him, but her leg hit a toppled chair. “Can we have a little light? I’m going to fall and break my neck.”

“Computer, lights to 15 percent.”

She smiled at his stubborn streak. “Thank you.” He wasn’t going to give an inch. But she knew what tonight would bring and was willing to allow him his show of bravado. She could see him now in the shadows, sitting on the floor, leaning against the bulkhead near one of the viewports. He’d put on his tee and was facing towards the window with his eyes closed. Wading through the debris, she made her way to his side but still he didn’t move.

Pieces of broken furniture were strewn from one end of the room to the other and pushing some out of the way she sat, cross legged, opposite him. His eyes were closed and he was sitting as still as stone. Kathryn was loathe to disturb him so leaning forward, with her elbows on her knees, she rested her chin in her hands and took this time to study his handsome face. It shone silver grey in the moonlight and his grey streaked hair was a little mussed and falling over his broad forehead. Her eyes traced the lines of his tattoo as it flowed over his brow and onto his temple, its sweep so graceful, and so much a part of him.

With his eyes closed, his long lashes rested on his cheeks and she wondered if he had fallen asleep. Tilting her head to the side, she contemplated his slightly off centre nose, and smiled as she wondered how it had been broken. She must ask him. There was that tiny cleft in his chin and the telltale dips in his cheeks where his dimples would be. Her eyes then settled on his mouth. That beautiful sensuous mouth. It fascinated her. The full bottom lip and the delicate almost feminine upper bow. Her tongue darted out and moistened her lips as she wondered what it would be like to taste and feel those lips on hers. His breathing changed and she had the distinct feeling of being watched. Lifting her eyes from his mouth she found him staring at her. His gaze was intense and but she refused to shrink from his piercing stare.

His demeanour was still mulish. “Why are you here, Captain? I’m not going to change my mind about my resignation.”

She ignored that and began to explain. “I came to apologise for what I did today. I had no right to do that to you.”

“You had every right. You’re the captain.”

“Yes I know, but what I did, I did as Kathryn, not as the Captain, and for that I’m sorry. I should never have put you in that position, Chakotay. Will you accept my apology?”

He frowned. “I still don’t understand what you’re apologising for.”

Kathryn sat up a little straighter and dropped her hands into her lap. Her finger toyed with the seam on her pants and she kept her eyes lowered as she spoke. “Although I do think that under such circumstances you would be the best person to lead the crew home, that’s not why I sent you to the escape pod.” She took a deep breath. “I sent you with the crew so you would be safe. I couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to you.”

He tensed and stared at her.

Her eyes darted to his. “We’re in a terrible mess, Chakotay, and I’m not sure what to do about it. You see, I tried to deny it, but I can’t any longer.” She shrugged, giving him a small smile. “To be honest, it feels good to accept the truth. And I think I have a solution.”

“You’ve lost me. What truth and what solution?”

She’d had a feeling she was going to have to spell it out for him. “Well, we, as in you and I, are in love with each other, and it’s a disaster.”

He didn’t move and his expression didn’t change but he breathed out a quiet. “Oh.”

She grunted a small laugh. “Yes, ‘oh’ is right.”

He leant a little closer to her. “What is your solution? And am I going to like it?”

She shrugged. “I certainly hope so.” But now that the moment had arrived, she was losing her resolve. What if it wasn’t what he wanted, where would that leave their relationship? Both professional and personal. Then she looked into his eyes. They were brimming with love and acceptance, and this suddenly became the easiest decision she’d ever had to make.

“Do you think we can do this together, Chakotay? Be the command team of Voyager and be a couple? It will be fraught with pitfalls, but I can’t see any other way around our dilemma.”

He shook his head slightly and a small smile teased at the corners of his mouth. “Are you asking me if I’d like to be in a relationship with you?”

Kathryn nodded her head. “Yes. But I want you to think about this seriously, Chakotay. It will be no picnic. I need you as my first officer. I can’t lead this crew without you and if the only way we can do this, is to be together, then that’s the way it has to be.”

He frowned now. “Ah, so this is about Voyager? I should have known.”

God, he was frustrating. “Yes, of course this is about Voyager. Until we’re safely back in the Alpha Quadrant, everything is about Voyager.”

His eyes glinted darkly and he tensed. “So you’re willing to prostitute yourself for the good of the ship and crew. Nice one, Captain. Starfleet would be so proud. You’re taking the enemy to your bed to maintain the status quo. Is this something they teach you in command school? Because I must have missed that class.”

That was a low blow and aimed to hurt. Kathryn reeled back, stricken. “Is that what you think? And is that what you really think of me?” Her eyes sparked with anger. “I’ll leave you to your own company then, Commander.”

As she moved to get up, his hand shot out and grabbed her arm. Despite her attempt to pull away, he held her fast. She sat still and looked at the hand that was holding her and then raised her eyes to his. Her look was filled with anger and disappointment.

He let her go and slumped back against the bulkhead. “I’m sorry.”

“No, I don’t think you are. Obviously, I misinterpreted your feelings. I apologise for my mistake.” With that she rose and began to walk towards the door.

“I love you.” His voice was barely a whisper, but it reverberated around the silent room.

Kathryn stilled, but didn’t turn around.

He spoke quietly into the shadows. “I love you so desperately that I don’t know what to do with these feelings. I’ve bottled them up for so long now, that I’m almost afraid to let them out.”

Turning slowly, she looked at him.

Although he was now standing, he hadn’t moved from the window, but his eyes held her gaze. “Look what happened today. That’s how my feelings manifested themselves with just the thought of losing you. I don’t know what I would do if it really happened. You will be the death of me, Kathryn Janeway.”

“Not if I can help it.” She took a few steps towards him, but then stopped. It would be up to him to come the rest of the way. It was only fair.

“This is a bond for life, Kathryn. Nothing else will be enough. You’ve owned my heart since the first time we met on Voyager’s bridge. You saved Paris’s life that day, but I lost mine. It has belonged to you from that very moment.”

“It’s a fair trade then, because you own mine.” She stared at him for a long moment across the debris. “I love you.”

Without taking his eyes from hers, he stepped over the broken furniture to meet her in the middle of the room. They stood only inches apart and looked at one another. Kathryn could see herself reflected in his dark pupils, but looking past her reflection she could see her life and her future. It was filled with laughter, delight, complexities, and dilemmas, but most of all it was filled with love. Her hand drifted up and cupped the side of his face and her thumb brushed his cheek.

He blinked slowly and Kathryn felt the tension leave his body and a sense of peace pervaded the room.

Kathryn slid her arms around him and rested her head against his chest, holding him gently. “Chakotay, shall we go to my quarters?” She didn’t want to stay here surrounded by the shattered remains of his ‘before’ life. They had a new path to travel now and it would begin tonight, but not here.

He pulled her arms from around him and taking a step away from her, held her hands in his. “Where you lead, I’ll follow.”

A smile hovered on her lips and she lifted his hands and kissed them both. “In this part of our life, we go together, as equals. Do you think we can do that? It will be difficult. There is no way to delineate where we, as a command team ends and as a couple begins. We’ll just have to muddle through. Are you with me?”

“Always.”

Hand in hand they left the ruin of Chakotay’s quarters and entered hers. Moving straight through the living area to the starlit bedroom, they slowly and deliberately shed their clothes. Each of them took time to learn and explore the contours and planes of their lover’s body and as each new expanse of skin was exposed, they revelled in the delight of roads to be travelled, and of the remarkable and unexplored wonders that would be their new life.

Naked, at last, wrapped in each other’s arms and bathed in the reflected light of the planet, Kathryn and Chakotay fell into bed in a tangle of limbs and made love through the night.

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

Tuvok sat in his quarters, meditating. The small flame of the Vulcan prayer lamp flickered in the gentle waft of recycled air. His eyes were closed as he centred himself, looking deep within his consciousness. This evening’s confrontation with the commander, and the captain’s uncharacteristic behaviour, had left him perturbed. He had always been aware of the command team’s attraction to one another. It was difficult to ignore, but it was not until tonight that he understood the true depth of that bond. He opened his eyes slowly and stared into the lamp. He knew what had to be done.

Their relationship, as it was, had become a destructive force. For each of them to survive they either had to expunge the feelings that they had for one another or act upon them. He was not Human, but after countless years of working and living with them he had gleaned some understanding of how Human emotions manifested themselves, and he knew that extinguishing such deep feelings would be impossible, if not dangerous. So the only option open to the captain and commander was to formalise their bond. Tuvok stood and moved towards his door. He intended to speak to the Captain immediately, but before he exited another thought occurred to him.

“Computer, state the location of Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay.”

“Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay are in the captain’s quarters. Deck three…”

“Computer, what is their status?”

“The Captain and Commander are awake.”

“Computer what distance is the Captain from the Commander?”

“Unable to compute.”

“Explain?”

“It is impossible to differentiate between the captain and the commander’s life signs. They are occupying the same space.”

Tuvok’s shoulders relaxed and he turned away from the door. It seemed that the Captain and Commander had taken matters into their own hands and his assistance was not required. He made his way into his bedroom to begin his nightly routine. He shrugged out of his robe and placed in on the hanging rack, then paused. “Computer, relay all communications for the Captain and Commander to my combadge until further notice.”

“Affirmative.”

With a satisfied nod, Tuvok slid between the covers of his bed and closed his eyes. The gentle tendrils of his mind reached out and touched the quiet but calm presence that was T’Pel. He felt her whisper a soft response and marvelled at the power of their link. He suspected that the Captain and Commander’s bond was equally as strong and, just as his and T’Pel’s had endured over time and space, so would theirs. He drifted into a dreamless slumber.

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

The reflected light of Rakosa V spilled through the viewport of Kathryn’s bedroom and glinted off the sweat beaded bodies of the new lovers. The intense emotions of the previous few hours, had given way to gentle, giving lovemaking. Each lover eager to heal the wounds unknowingly inflicted on the other.

They were together at last, with the years of travel ahead of them. Neither knew what the future held and life would be tenuous at best, but for now they were safe in each other’s arms. It would be the strength of their bond and the depth of their love that would nurture and comfort them, keeping them safe through all the conflicts and challenges to come.

All was as it should be.

*****

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