Restitution

Summary:A Repression episode addition. Kathryn has to come to terms with Chakotay’s betrayal. Written for Belanna for the 2006 Vamb Secret Santa.

Rated NC17

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


Kathryn stood at the viewport and stared sightlessly at the passing blur of stars. Her shoulders were rigid, her hands fisted at her sides, and tension radiated from every pore. All she wanted to do was scream and rail, but her chest was so tight with hurt and her throat so clenched with anger that it was impossible to make a sound. Seven years of comradeship, friendship and dare she say it… love, had been snuffed out in one hideous moment. The fizzle from the malfunctioning phaser sounding the death knell to all her hopes and dreams. She couldn’t bear to think of it, but the reality howled like a madman in her mind. He’d tried to kill her. Every time she closed her eyes all she could see was the cold hard stare and vicious smirk that he’d given her as he’d taken the phaser from Tuvok and ordered her back to the brig. She’d thought she was dead. She may as well have been. All feeling was gone.

No, that was a lie. All the good feelings were gone, everything except hurt and anger.

The analytical part of her brain was scrabbling its way through the melee of hurt, imploring her to see reason. It whispered desperately in the background that it was Teero, not Chakotay, who was at fault. He’d had his control torn from him. He wasn’t to blame.

But the wounded woman spoke louder. It had been him. It was Chakotay who’d handed the phaser to Tuvok and given the order to kill her. A small cry escaped at this thought.

Kathryn pushed her fist into her middle and pressed against the hurt. ‘Consider this a test of loyalty. It’s set to kill.’ The words echoed through her mind.

The phaser hadn’t killed her, but it had destroyed everything that was Kathryn. How could she go on? How could she work with him each day, sit beside him, command him?

Her eyes focussed on the stars as she shoved her fist hard into her stomach. She felt ill. Bile rose, but she gritted her teeth, and with pure determination she pressed all the feelings deep down inside her. Swallowing hard, she buried the hurt, the betrayal, and the anguish, and when she’d successfully quashed all those bitter emotions and pushed them into a small dark corner of her being, she began convince herself that she could get through this. With tenacity drawn from deep within, she pushed herself to move beyond this moment. To survive. It was imperative, and ultimately she had no choice. She’d promised to get this crew home and to do so, she had no option but to survive. Time would dull the pain, but she doubted it would ever erase it. The wound would never truly heal. Taking a deep breath, and then another, she finally gained some control.

Just in time.

Her combadge chirped. “Paris to the Captain.”

“Y..” She cleared her throat. “Yes, Mr Paris.” She sounded normal. How frightening. She was a seething mass of hurt and anger covered by a thin veneer of command restraint and she sounded her usual self. She wondered how long it would last and what it would cost her.

“Captain, the crew are all meeting on the holodeck to watch a film. It would be great if you could be there. We thought it would be a good thing to do after what happened today. A sort of bonding thing.”

Kathryn took another deep breath. She wanted to tell him to go to hell. To tell them all to go to hell, but she didn’t. Pushing the anger aside again, she breathed deeply. She really just wanted to be left alone to grieve, but duty called, as always, and she knew she had to go. All these thoughts were zigzagging through her mind, distracting her. They moved too fast for her to grasp, but in the process she was taking too long to answer.

“Captain?”

She jolted back to the here and now. “Yes, Mr Paris. I’ll be there. What time?”

“As soon as you get here, Captain. We’re waiting for you.”

“Fine, I’m on my way.”

Turning away from the blackness of space, she tugged at her uniform, and closed her eyes once more in an attempt to find that quiet place inside her. She reached deep and then opening her eyes, she stood tall and strode out the door.

Neelix greeted her cheerfully when she arrived. The crew were seated in small groups throughout the cinema, chatting and laughing. She put on a smile, declined the offer of popcorn and took a seat. Keeping her eye on the door, she noticed Chakotay enter with Tuvok. She prayed that he wouldn’t come near her and breathed a sigh of relief when he found a seat near the Doctor and Seven. Tuvok took his place by her side and after a few well chosen words, they sat and watched the film in silence. Kathryn couldn’t have told anyone what the movie was about. Her mind was awash with its own pictures and memories. She tried to recall all the pleasant and endearing moments she’d spent with Chakotay over the years. But his smiling face would appear in her mind only to morph into that cold heartless sneer, and the hurt would surge again to the surface. Tuvok made his excuses after the first feature and she took the opportunity to escape to her quarters. The shadows afforded some solace, and she sat for most of the night attempting to come to terms with her loss.

In the early hours before ship’s dawn, she dozed fitfully and woke with a start just before her alarm sounded. After dragging herself to the shower, she dressed, plastered her Captain’s mask in place and went to work. She avoided everyone’s eyes as she ran through the routine reports, then brusquely handed the bridge over to Chakotay and escaped to her ready room.

Once within the sanctuary of her office, she headed straight to the replicator and ordered a coffee. She couldn’t get over how calm and unperturbed everyone seemed to be. The bridge crew were cheerful and appeared none the worse for wear for their experiences. Tom and Chakotay had even joked about the film from the previous evening. No hard feelings appeared to be harboured there. Surprising really, considering Tom was the first person Chakotay had shot. And not only had he shot him, he’d shot him in front of B’Elanna. But Tom had only been stunned, perhaps that was the difference. Chakotay hadn’t tried to kill him.

Kathryn choked back a cry. The harshness of that reality was like a jagged knife in her heart. It almost felt as if something had torn within her and her strength and determination were bleeding out. There was nothing she could do to staunch the flow and she had a terrible feeling that she might not survive the haemorrhage. Taking a few sips of coffee she hoped that the caffeine would help shore up the dam of emotions. It was working, sort of. She sat down at her desk.

Work was the only thing left to her, so gritting her teeth she picked up a padd, slammed the door on her feelings and forced herself to concentrate.

Chakotay brought the morning reports at the usual time. She nodded her thanks, and without meeting his eyes, dismissed him almost immediately. He hesitated before he turned, but she feigned interest in one of the padds and he spun on his heel and left. The day dragged on. Finally 1800 arrived and Kathryn was the first to leave the command deck. She managed to avoid Chakotay and holed up in her quarters again, suffering through another restless night.

The next two days were carbon copies of the first, with the exception of a slowly deteriorating Captain. She was getting next to no sleep and her mind was in turmoil. There was no one to whom she could speak. Tuvok wouldn’t understand. He’d been able to justify what had happened in his own mind and good luck to him. Logic was a great out sometimes.

Shift had just ended on the third day post mutiny and Kathryn left her ready room unaware of the concerned gazes that followed her exit. Tuvok and Chakotay held one another’s look as she passed between them and entered the lift. With a nod to the Vulcan, Chakotay followed a few minutes later.

Kathryn was sitting in the dark staring out the viewport. An uneaten meal lay on the table in front of her and she held a cold cup of coffee in her hand. The door chimed and she automatically gave the command to enter.

“Captain?”

Her head shot around to find her First Officer standing just inside the doorway to her quarters. Bolting upright, she almost spilled her coffee but gathered herself and placed the cup on the table. “Commander. How can I help you?”

“Kathryn. I’m concerned. Many of us are. You’ve not been yourself since the Teero incident and I just wanted to see if you were alright.”

“I’m fine, thank you, Commander.”

He took another couple of steps forward and spoke quietly. “I don’t think you are. You’ve barely spoken a word to anyone in days. That’s not like you, Kathryn.”

“So you’re an expert on my behaviour now, are you, Commander?” She stood and took a step towards him. There was a dangerous glint in her eye. “You can tell all your cronies that I am just fine and that I would like to be left alone. Thank you.”

“It’s Chakotay, Kathryn. And please, I want to help. I need to apologise for what I did. You know that I’d never intentionally hurt you. I’m so sorry for what happened, but it was out of my control.”

“I’m aware of that, Commander, however I would appreciate it if you would respect my wishes and please leave me alone.”

He didn’t move and she took an aggressive step towards him. “You’re dismissed.”

“I’m not going, Kathryn. You’ve dismissed me every time I’ve tried to talk to you, but this time I’m not leaving.”

Her hackles rose. How dare he. She glared at him and spoke through gritted teeth. “If you don’t leave I’ll call security. Maybe it’s time you spent some quality time in the brig. I can recommend it.”

He looked distraught and lifted a placating hand only to let it drop back to his side at her steely look. “Kathryn, please. We need to discuss this. You don’t look like you’ve slept in days and I doubt if you’ve had a proper meal in that time either.”

“Oh, so now you’re concerned about my welfare. Please don’t bother. I’m quite capable of looking after myself. I don’t need your help.”

“I think you do. You need someone, Kathryn. You have to get past this.”

“Get past it?” It was almost a scream, almost a laugh. Kathryn tamped down her anguish. “Get past it? How do I do that, Chakotay? Please tell me how I get past the fact that my closest friend ordered my assassination?”

“I’m sorry, Kathryn. I truly am. I wish there was some way I could make it all go away, but I can’t. I can only tell you again how sorry I am and it’s a moment that will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

Kathryn huffed out a derisive laugh. “Ha. Poor you.” She turned her back on him. “I don’t want to speak about it or to you. Get out.”

“No.”

She spun around and spoke in harsh measured tones. “I said, get out now.”

“No. Kathryn. I’m not going.”

“I suppose mutiny gets easier with practice.” She tapped her combadge. “Janeway to Security. I want a team to my quarters immediately.”

“Tuvok here, Captain.”

“Did you hear me, Tuvok? I want a security team to my quarters on the double. Commander Chakotay is spending the night in the brig for insubordination.”

Chakotay watched her as she glared at him. He was eerily unperturbed.

Tuvok answered in a cool calm voice. “Captain, I’m afraid I cannot comply. I sent the commander to see you. I think it would be wise to speak to him. You have not been yourself.”

“Do you want to join him in the brig, Tuvok? Because that’s where you’ll finish up if you don’t send a team down here this minute.”

“I will make my way to your quarters shortly, but I suggest you speak to the Commander and try and resolve your differences.”

Kathryn’s eyes glinted with fire but there was a hint of panic there as well. They were ganging up on her again and all of a sudden she felt completely alone. The feelings of fear and powerlessness returned with a vengeance and she started to breathe rapidly. Her only thought was that she had to get away. She needed to escape from him. From Chakotay. All the frail and fragile walls of resolve that she’d constructed began to topple. She made a dash for the door, but Chakotay grabbed her arm as she moved past him and he swung her around so she was looking at him. “Kathryn, please. Just be calm and let’s talk about this.”

“Let me go.”

He shook his head and gently took her other hand. “No, I can’t, Kathryn.”

She was starting to crumble. “Please, let me go, Chakotay. I can’t…. I don’t… Please.”

She was shaking. Her body finally giving under the strain. She could feel her legs begin to give way. Chakotay felt it too and hauled her into his arms. The shock of full body contact with him stunned her for a moment and then a surge of adrenalin hit and she pushed herself away. “What the hell are you doing? Get your hands off me.”

“I will, Kathryn, but you’ve got to promise that you won’t run and we can talk about this. I’m very worried about you.”

She was still breathing rapidly, but nodded brusquely and he let her go slowly. She stared at him for a moment and then hauled her arm back and slapped him hard across the face. “How dare you do that to me. How dare you.” Anger was a familiar friend and it gave her strength.

His hand drifted up to his stinging cheek. “Does that make you feel better, Kathryn? If it does, you’re welcome to take another shot.”

“Don’t tempt me.”

“Talk to me, Kathryn. Please. Tell me what you’re thinking.”

She shook her head.

“Tell me, Kathryn. Tell me why you’re so angry. I want to know. I need to know. What did I do, Kathryn?”

“You bastard! You know exactly what you did.”

“I want you to tell me. What did I do?”

“You….you…” She tasted tears. She hadn’t realised she was crying. She stared at him. His dark eyes, filled with concern, drilled into hers.

“Tell me, Kathryn.” Tears were welling in his eyes and his voice was barely a whisper. “Tell me.”

Taking a shuddering breath as the tears streamed down her face, she rasped past the tightness in her throat. “You killed me.”

His face twisted into a grimace of pain. “Oh spirits, Kathryn. I’m so sorry. But you’re still alive. I didn’t kill you.”

She stepped further away from him and turned, not able to look at his face.

He walked up behind her and placed his hand gently on her shoulder. She flinched, but didn’t pull away. “Kathryn, can you ever forgive me?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know, Chakotay. I really don’t know.”

He frowned and let his hand slide from her shoulder. “I need your forgiveness, Kathryn. I need it to survive.”

Kathryn had gained a small amount of control. “It’s going to take time, Chakotay.”

“How long, Kathryn? You can’t go on like this and I can’t bear seeing you like this.”

She turned to him again. “This isn’t about you, Chakotay.”

“I know that, Kathryn. It’s about you and about Voyager and the crew. But they need you, Kathryn, and you can’t function as their captain when you’re like this. We have to get past the anger and hurt.”

“There’s no ‘we’, Chakotay. Iwill get past it. I just need time.”

He jibed at her attitude. “Don’t you realise this has impacted on the entire crew? Everyone is feeling fragile and disturbed by what happened. They need us to set an example. If they see that you’re unable to move past this and are holding a grudge against me, as warranted as it may be, they’ll not be able to deal with their traumas. For the good of the crew, you need to try and forgive me for what I did.”

The responsibility weighed heavy, but he was right. She didn’t have the right to indulge in this sort of selfish preoccupation. She had a ship to run. People relied on her to set an example, to show the way. She took a deep breath. “I’ll deal with it, Chakotay. I’ll get past it.”

“I still think you need to talk about what you’re feeling. Tuvok is concerned.”

“Well, he needn’t be. I understand what happened to him.”

“But you can’t understand what happened to me?”

He was right, but still that look haunted her. It was just too difficult to reconcile the person with her now, to that malevolent individual who had handed the phaser to Tuvok. “I… It’s different, Chakotay.”

“How?”

“It just is.”

His voice rose slightly. He was suffering as well. “You can forgive Tuvok for what he did, but you can’t forgive me? Is that it, Kathryn?”

Yes, that was exactly it. She nodded her head.

“What can I do to help you? I don’t understand how it’s so different. I need to know what to do.”

“I don’t know what you can do, Chakotay. You want to know how I feel?” She stepped towards him. “Well, I feel betrayed. I feel that everything up until this point has been a lie. That my safety net and my security have been compromised to a point where I don’t feel I can trust you or my own instincts anymore and that’s not a situation in which any starship captain should find themselves.” He looked deeply distressed. She raised her voice. “Don’t look at me like that. You wanted to know.”

“And I want to know what I can do to fix it. If you can forgive Tuvok, surely you can find it in your heart to forgive me. Like Tuvok… and like you… I was a victim too. Please Kathryn, if not for me then for you and the rest of the crew. I ask you to forgive me.”

In her heart was where the wound was deepest, but his words were pounding at her and she was buckling.

“Please, Kathryn.”

The anguish surged to the surface and the words spilled from her. “Oh God! It’s easy to forgive Tuvok.”

His face crumpled. “Why is it so easy to forgive Tuvok and not me?”

She closed her eyes, her voice a plaintive cry. “Because I’m not in love with him.” She shook her head and continued in a whisper. “His betrayal didn’t break my heart.”

“Oh God, Kathryn.” He strode forward and pulled her trembling body into his arms. Tears were pouring down both their faces and he held her close against him. She didn’t struggle this time. She was spent. The emotional toll of the last few days had left her shattered and she had no more strength left to battle. His strong arms enfolded her, the warmth of his body enveloped her and the steady beat of his heart thudded reassuringly under her cheek. She closed her eyes and held onto the moment. After a time her thoughts quieted and a small seed of contentment sprang within her.

This was so comfortingly familiar. His presence, his scent, his being. They were all the things that she knew deep within herself and they were still the same. As he held her safe within the confines of his arms she began to accept the fact that the other Chakotay had been an aberration. A vile apparition in the guise of the man she loved. It wasn’t him. In his arms her heart knew that her Chakotay, if he’d had a choice, would never have done what Teero had compelled him to do. Tuvok had succumbed to the evil Vedek’s tyranny. Teero’s control of Tuvok’s mind had been complete, and if a Vulcan, with all his training was unable to withstand the malicious barrage, then what chance did a mere human have? As the realisation settled within her, her shattered spirit began to mend. She pulled back and looked up into his face. His eyes were filled with sadness, but they also shone with love and devotion, and as she stared at him the memory of those cold hard eyes began to fade. Her hands drifted upwards to hold his face, her thumbs wiping the tears from his cheeks. She was emotionally raw, her feelings stripped bare of their usual control. She spoke her mind and her heart sang. “I love you.”

A shudder coursed through his body and his breath caught. Fresh tears sprang into his eyes. “Oh, Kathryn. I love you too and I’m so sorry.”

She shushed him and wiped at his tears. She was now the comforter, soothing him and now finally understanding just how traumatised he was by the whole ordeal. They would comfort and reassure each other. Her hand stroked over his face, trying to soothe the redness on his cheek. His hands were roaming over her back and shoulders, stroking and caressing. Her fingers travelled over his brow and then back to his face to stroke over his lips.

Their caresses suddenly took on a different tone. The light comforting touches became the heavier and more intense stroking of lovers. Her fingers dove into his hair and raked across the back of his scalp and she tucked her face into the crook of his neck. His hands were still travelling up and down her back, but they tightened their hold and brought her closer to him. He could feel her hot breath on his neck and the gentle undulations of her body against his. They were both responding by instinct, the intensity of the moment carrying them along on a wave of desire. They needed to be close to one another. It was as if body and mind were one, each seeking reassurance and resolution. They were desperate to re-establish their frayed connection, and their deep love for one another spurred them on. Touch, scent, taste, some familiar, others not, were their guides, and each new sensation was savoured and stored.

Kathryn could feel his body responding to hers. The heat of his arousal seared the skin of her belly through her clothes and she could feel the heat of want burn in her groin. Her face was still buried in his neck and the sweet spicy scent of him stirred her depths. Her fingers tangled in his hair, tugging and grasping at him. Her mouth opened and her hot tongue laved the skin of his neck, her teeth scraping along the slightly whiskered flesh. She could feel her nipples pucker into hard points, and rasp against the lace of her bra. A flush of desire washed over her, heating her from within.

Seven years she’d waited. Seven long and lonely years. She’d wanted him from that first day on the bridge, but had fallen in love with him over time. They were lovers in every sense of the word, but one, and now that would be put to rights.

Clothing disappeared, sliding off bodies and dropping unheeded to the floor. Their world spiralled down to this shadowed space they now inhabited. The stars shone their wan light through the window, casting their naked bodies in a silver glow.

He leant down and took a puckered nipple in his mouth. Her head fell back as she gasped. He laved and suckled, moving from one breast to the other until the sensations were almost overwhelming. The muscles of her belly trembled and jerked and the ache down below carried an edge of pain. She wanted him. Needed him.

Her hand drifted down to caress him. He was hard and hot against her palm as she stroked up and down his length. Shifting to the side, he slid his leg between hers and she ground against his thigh. Her stroking increased and after a moment he gasped and grabbed her hand to still her, whispering hotly against her skin. “Too much.” Reluctantly, she pulled her hand away and lifting her face to his she kissed him. Hard.

The sensations were extraordinary and he pulled his lips away, panting. Lacing his hands under her bottom he hoisted her in the air and set her on the sill of the viewport. Her back arched away from the cool glass, the cold pane in stark contrast to the heat of her body. Everywhere Chakotay touched was like fire, the flames licking at her, enveloping her, sending her soaring like vapours into the sky. Her fingers gripped his shoulders, her nails biting into the firm flesh. They would leave their mark. A brand on his skin, much like he was branded on her heart. She opened her eyes and he filled her vision, then she watched him slowly sink to the floor in front of her and as his mouth touched her aching flesh, she arched again against the frigid pane. Her hands now gripped at the bulkheads on either side of the viewport and turning slightly she looked out into the depths of space. There was only the transparent film between her and the darkness, but Chakotay held her fast and like her sweet anchor he kept her from plunging into the void.

She looked down at his dark head buried between her open thighs and the eroticism of the moment carried her away. She could feel the explosion coming. Her legs began to shake, her belly became rigid and the hot shards of desire began to pool at her centre. There was a noise. She recognised it as her voice. A keening cry greeted the onset of her climax. She arched against him, her back taut, her body shuddering and thrusting towards the warmth of his mouth. Stars exploded behind her eyelids, and she was lost.

As reality slowly reasserted itself she felt his mouth working its way up her body as his hands stroked and caressed her in its wake. Kissing and laving at her belly, his lips reached for her nipples once again, and then her neck. He found her mouth and they kissed deeply. She pushed him away a little and slid from the sill. Pulling him down to the floor, she laid her body full length along his, and kissed his mouth, his eyes, his nose and rubbed her cheek against his. She whispered in his ear. “Thank you. I love you.” She heard him groan as she ground herself against him.

His arms wrapped around her and held her close but she worked herself loose and began slithering her way down his body. He grabbed her arms and pulled her up again, shaking his head. “I won’t last.”

She smiled, and acknowledged his plea then straddling his thighs she lowered herself onto him. The sensation was exquisite and as Chakotay groaned unintelligibly, Kathryn heaved an, “Oh God.” and then started to move. But again he stilled her, holding her steady as he pulled himself back from the brink. With a smile he relaxed under her and she began to move again. He held her hips and guided her movements, grinding against her with each plunge.

He filled her. As he had always filled her heart, he now filled her body, and the sense of completion was divine. He began to pant and grunt and Kathryn could feel him swell within her. She hovered over him and stilled her movements waiting for him to relax again. Pulling his hands from her waist she pushed them away. He looked up at her and understood what she wanted. She needed to be in control. To re-establish her sense of authority and her confidence and he was willing to do anything to repair the damage he’d done. So spreading his arms out to the side, his eyes met hers and conveyed his understanding. Kathryn threw her head back and with a sob began to ride him in earnest. Her hands were curled into his front, her nails now biting into the taut flesh of his chest. He lay still beneath her and watched in awe as she took him. It was an extraordinary sight. She was so beautiful with her hair floating back and forth, her breasts swinging in front of him, her strong but lithe body possessing his. He wanted to touch her, but with great effort he held himself in check.

She ground and pummelled herself against him, punishing both herself and him. But under the desperation there was a sense of fulfilment and renewal, of coming full circle. Coming home. Her head dropped forward again and her eyes met his. Her stare was filled with love, and also a shadow of anger and pain, but as she thrashed against him and their eyes locked in silent communion, the anger faded and the pain vanished. The demons had been vanquished.

He could feel his climax coming. Blood pounded into his groin, and the heat centred itself. He watched as she gritted her teeth and her body shuddered in preparation for her orgasm. He felt her muscles begin to clamp around him and she let out a guttural cry. He couldn’t hold back any longer. With a yell he slammed his hips up against her and came in hard hot bursts. Her sweaty body dropped onto his and he held her close as they panted and gasped.

They were still joined, and grasped at one another, small shudders running through both their bodies with the movement. Hot tears trickled down his neck and he could feel the small hiccups as she cried. His tears slid down the side of his face to mingle with hers and they held one another for a long time.

They would be alright. They would be better than alright. The wounds would eventually heal and they would be whole again. He kissed her neck and cheek as she snuggled closer to him.

Finally, he felt her still and she pulled back a little. Her eyes didn’t meet his, but followed her fingers as they traced over the moonshaped marks her fingernails had left on his chest. “I’m sorry. Do they hurt?”

He lifted his head to look, and lied. “No. They’re fine.” They stung, but it wasn’t important.

“Kathryn?”

She finally raised her eyes to his. “Are you alright?”

There were the remnants of tears on her face and he lifted his hand and wiped at them gently. She grasped his hand and kissed his palm. “Yes, I think I am. Are you?”

He nodded, but his eyes misted over. They were both so raw and emotionally exposed, but in a strange way it was refreshing. For so many years they’d stifled and smothered their true feelings, sublimated their wants and desires and there was a certain sense of catharsis to finally set them free. No more lies, no more hiding from the truth. From now on they would be free to express their love for one another and life would be good.

He slid from her and sighed, but she remained laying along the length of his body, the contact as necessary as breathing. She rested her chin on her folded hands and contemplated his face. “You know, Tuvok is going to be knocking on this door any minute now.”

Chakotay smiled warmly. “He’s in for a show then.”

Kathryn laid her head on his chest and rested her arms along the length of his, her fingers weaving in between his fingers. “I didn’t think I would ever be able to forgive you for what you did.”

“Have you?”

Kathryn nodded, but stayed where she was. “Yes, I have.” Now she let go of his hands and rested her chin on his chest. “It must be love.”

“Don’t ever doubt that, Kathryn. It’s always been love. Soul searing and deep.”

She stared into his dark eyes and thought that yes, it was deep. All encompassing. Almost frightening in its intensity. That’s why she’d never taken the step towards this. Fear. But no more. To live without him was more destructive than living with him. They would survive.

He frowned as he looked at her. “I’ve been very worried about you. Everyone has.”

Kathryn gave him a small smile. “Everyone is overly preoccupied with my wellbeing.”

“They’re not overly preoccupied. They just care. They always have. Yosa and Ayala are going to come and see you tomorrow. They’re devastated by the part they played in the whole thing. They’re all genuinely devoted to you, Kathryn. You should be so proud of the love you engender amongst the crew. They adore you.”

She huffed a laugh. “That’s overstating it rather, but thank you for the sentiment.”

“It’s true, but I’m not going to argue with you about it. Just wait and see.”

With a slight nod, she touched his face again. The imprint of her hand was still visible on his cheek. She leant forward and kissed it. “I’m sorry.”

He lifted his hand and touched his cheek. “You’ve got a killer left hook.”

She dropped her head to his chest and a laugh rumbled though her just as her door chimed. She looked at Chakotay with wide eyes. “What did I tell you?”

They chorused. “Tuvok!”

Kathryn leapt to her feet and ran naked to her bedroom calling over her shoulder as she disappeared into the room, “Stall him while I put something on.”

“Hey! What about me?” Chakotay jumped to his feet and scrabbled around, finding and pulling on his trousers and shirt. Shrugging on his jacket, he bundled the rest of the clothing into a ball and tossed them behind the couch. He ran his fingers through his hair to tidy it, but it was pointless. It was quite obvious what had happened and Tuvok was no fool.

The door chimed again and Chakotay called. “Come.”

Tuvok stepped over the threshold and stood contemplating Chakotay’s bare feet and rumpled appearance. “Commander, I take it that you and the Captain have discussed your differences and have come to a satisfactory understanding.”

Chakotay almost rolled his eyes, but restrained himself. He opened his mouth to answer but Kathryn interrupted as she walked from the bedroom. “Yes we have, Tuvok. Thank you for your concern.” She was wearing her pink silk dressing gown and not much else that Chakotay could discern.

Tuvok nodded his head and looked back and forth between his commanding officers. Chakotay could have sworn he saw a sparkle of laughter in the Vulcan’s gaze, but surely he must have been mistaken. Tuvok spoke with his usual acerbic candour. “I see that it was a successful dialogue. I will wish you both goodnight and my congratulations. A most pleasing outcome.”

Kathryn gave her old friend a nod. “Thank you, Tuvok, for your support.”

He nodded again at each of them. “Captain, Commander.” With that he turned and exited Kathryn’s quarters.

Kathryn moved into Chakotay’s arms. He was in shock. “What just happened?”

“Tuvok just gave us his blessing.”

Chakotay shook his head in disbelief. “Just when I think I’ve got that guy pegged, he goes and does something that I don’t expect.” He kissed Kathryn’s head. “I thought that he’d be dead against us being together. He’s something of a stickler for the rules, you know. And there I was getting ready to defend your honour.”

“Thank you. That was very brave of you and yes, he is a stickler, but he also cares about us and the crew. He knows that survival above all else is imperative, and he’s known how I feel about you for quite some time. He’s suggested on more than one occasion that I do something about it, but I held back.”

“You’re kidding me, right? Tuvok suggested to you that you… and me….we, should be together. And he was alright with this? Even with the ominous cloud of Starfleet protocols hovering overhead?”

Kathryn shrugged and gave him a ghost of a smile. “That’s the beauty of logic. There’s a way around most dilemmas if you put your mind to it.”

Still looking at the closed doors Chakotay smiled and held her close. “You are alright, aren’t you?”

She leant back and caressed the side of his face. “Yes. I didn’t think that I ever would be, but I feel whole for the first time in a long while. I think I’ve been struggling for some time, but refused to recognise it. My reaction was as much my fault as it was Teero’s. I just refused to see what was right in front of me. I’m tired and I can’t do this alone anymore. Not if I want to survive as a whole person. I apologise for my anger. It was misplaced.”

“This was an unsettling experience for all of us, Kathryn. We’d all but forgotten about our differences…”

“Not everyone had, Chakotay. Your slip in sickbay about the perpetrator being someone from my crew made me realise that there still are differences and I think that was when I first felt vulnerable. I foolishly thought that we’d forgotten.”

Chakotay frowned. “I’m sorry about that, Kathryn. I don’t know what made me say that. I was feeling just as vulnerable and more than a little worried when it became apparent that the ex Maquis were the victims and I could do nothing to protect them. I should’ve known that it wouldn’t be anyone on Voyager. I’m rather ashamed of myself.”

Kathryn shrugged. “Don’t be. We’ve all done things that we’re not proud of, and I’m the last person to judge. I suppose we just have to learn from our mistakes and offer forgiveness where it’s needed.”

Chakotay nodded and pulled her back into his arms. They stood like that for some time. It was so peaceful, and after days of no sleep, she could feel herself relaxing and becoming very drowsy.

Chakotay felt it too. “Come on. Bed. We’re both exhausted.”

“No argument there.”

They undressed and slid under the covers. Kathryn rested her head on his shoulder and they snuggled up together.

“Good night, my love.” He kissed her head.

She reached up with her hand and stroked gently down his cheek. “Goodnight, Chakotay.”

He held her until he felt her body lighten and her breathing steady. His thoughts drifted back to that horrifying moment in the ready room. It terrified him that there was a part of him that could be so calculating and remorseless. He would never have thought that he was capable of such a thing, brain washing not withstanding. But he’d done it. He’d manipulated both Tuvok and Kathryn in that horrifying moment. Oh, he’d known that he wasn’t going to kill her. He’d rigged the phaser to misfire. It had been a test of Tuvok’s loyalty, but it had been a cruel and vicious attack on both of them, and it would take him a long time to forgive himself. A shudder of self loathing rippled through his body. The movement disturbed the woman asleep in his arms. In her dozing state, she reached for him and as if she knew what he was thinking, she mumbled, “It’s alright, it’s alright. My heart.” Then she slid back into slumber again. His heart almost burst with love.

He studied her in the dim light. The lines of stress around her eyes and mouth had softened in sleep but traces of them remained. He hoped one day to erase them but the nature of her job meant the likelihood of that was remote. For now he would take care of her, and attempt to make her burdens lighter, as he’d promised all those years ago. They would strive to sustain one another through the years of the journey ahead and together they would prevail.

With a smile, he closed his eyes and joined her in slumber.

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