Togetherness

Rated PG.

Summary: Written for the Vamb 2009 Ficlet exchange. My recipient was Tanya and she gave me the first line – The rain didn’t stop for fifteen days. Thank you for a terrific starting point.

Thanks to Corinna and Kim for the betas.

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

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The rain didn’t stop for fifteen days. At first, it had come as a welcome excuse to rest and relax but after more than two weeks of being held hostage by the weather, Chakotay was at his wit’s end.

Closing his eyes, he silently repeated the well-worn mantra. Never again.

He’d been cooped up with Paris and Neelix in this one room shack for over two weeks and they were thoroughly sick of one another. They’d even retreated to different corners of the room in an attempt to keep some distance between them.

It wasn’t far enough however, and for the sake of some solitude, Chakotay was ready to take his chances outside in Myrovia’s miserable climate.

None of them was coping terribly well; even Neelix’s inexhaustible good humour had run out of steam. The usually-effusive morale officer was now hunched in his corner of the room sporting a thunderous scowl under a head of frizzy curls – the constant dampness having done something tragic to his hair.

Paris was pretending to be asleep – an excellent ploy that meant he didn’t have to speak to anyone. Chakotay wished he’d thought of it.

Initially they’d accepted their situation with good grace and whiled-away the endless hours of inactivity playing cards. Poker had been the game of choice until Neelix had won almost everything his unfortunate companions owned. In an attempt to recoup their losses they’d tried Gin Rummy, then Snap!, Go Fish and as a last resort, Old Maid. Neelix had continued his winning streak, wiping the floor with them in every game; they were lucky to have kept their shirts.

The situation had become so desperate that they’d agreed – grudgingly – to play charades. The game had quickly degenerated into a sequence of gruesome fantasies. Each of the reluctant ‘roomies’ had acted out with relish, imaginary tortures intended for their Myrovian host. The alien ambassador had been systematically gutted, maimed, bludgeoned and mutilated in more ways than Chakotay could count. It had been cathartic at first but when they started to enjoy themselves too much, he’d begun to have reservations – not to mention grave concerns for their mental health. He’d called a halt to proceedings when Tom mimed a particularly grisly demise for the diplomat that involved racks, pulleys and exposed internal organs.

If Voyager didn’t return soon, he wouldn’t be able to vouch for their sanity.

Fortunately, the ship was due back later that day – but not soon enough for Chakotay. He wanted out of this hellhole and back to the blissful solitude of his quarters – where he would happily stay cloistered for a month.

He sighed, then instantly regretted it. Neelix’s head shot up and the morose Talaxian’s eyes sparked with the barest flicker of enthusiasm – the morale officer within emerging from the quagmire of misery. Chakotay dreaded the inevitable.

“Commander, I’ve thought of something new to play.” Chakotay saw Tom turn away to face the wall – the coward – and again he wished he’d thought of the sleeping ploy.

Neelix was undeterred. “There’s a game that Naomi and Mezoti play called ‘I Spy’. You take the first letter of an object and say, ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…’ and then you…”

Chakotay pivoted to his feet. “D, for door.” Unable to tolerate another moment inside, he ignored the morale officer’s surprised look and snapped, “I’ll be back.”

He yanked open the door, stepped outside, and slammed it shut behind him. Chakotay heaved a sigh and looked around. It was the same that day as it had been for the last fifteen days. The rain drummed down relentlessly on the roof of the small entry porch, the branches of the surrounding trees drooped under the leaden weight of water and the ground was a muddy slush. Taking a step off the porch and not caring if he got soaked to the skin, Chakotay strode off into the forest.

The rain was cool and trickled down his back – making him shiver. Despite the deluge being somewhat milder under the canopy of trees, there didn’t seem to be anywhere that was even remotely dry. He decided that this was the most unpleasant planet they’d ever visited and – considering the array of planets they’d encountered – that was really saying something.

He should never have agreed to stay behind. What had he been thinking? Obviously, not a lot.

Even Kathryn had shot a surprised look his way when he’d volunteered.

Little did she know that she was the reason behind his need to escape.

Over the last few months, she’d become more flirtatious and overtly affectionate, making it torture for him to be in her company. Their relationship was doomed to remain platonic. The parameters in place would only ever allow it to go as far as those few lingering looks and brief touches, and he’d foolishly thought that being away from her might dull his feelings. But of course, it had accomplished the exact opposite. The adage of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ was as true that day as it had ever been. All he’d thought about for the entire two weeks stranded had been Kathryn – where she was, what she was doing and, more importantly, whom she was doing it with. He groaned at the mental picture that last thought evoked.

The Myrovian Ambassador had been cloyingly attentive and Chakotay hadn’t missed the almost lascivious look he’d given Kathryn when she’d agreed to take Voyager on a tour through his system.

‘His system’!

Chakotay took a swing at a tree branch then gasped as the water-laden upper branches relinquished their load right on top of his head.

Sputtering, he stood and seethed for a long moment before shaking the water from his hair and wiping it from his eyes. Taking a deep breath, he huffed angrily. It was his own damned fault and there was no one to blame but himself. It was the usual comedy of errors and although he’d laughed at the time, it was now difficult to find anything even remotely amusing about the situation.

His, Tom and Neelix’s isolation had been a test – something to do with the Myrovian culture of tolerance and endurance. The handsome Ambassador had insisted that three crewmembers stay behind while Voyager took the two-week tour of his four-planet system. Neelix had volunteered instantly; as morale officer and unofficial ambassador, he felt it was his duty. Harry had revelled in a brief moment of triumph as he shoved an unsuspecting Tom Paris forward. Tom had been so dumbfounded that he’d missed the opportunity to decline. It was then that Chakotay had stepped up to volunteer. At the time, he hadn’t given too much thought to his rationale. He’d reasoned that two weeks away from the ship and Kathryn would give him some time to mull over his options for the future. If only he’d had the foresight to realise just how awful it would be.

Tom had been miserable from day one; he missed B’Elanna. And Chakotay didn’t even want to think about what was in store for Harry Kim when they got back to the ship. Neelix’s good humour had become irritating within hours and with nowhere to escape to, they’d gritted their teeth and tried to make the best of it.

Voyager’s arrival couldn’t come too soon.

Chakotay started walking again until he found a particularly large tree with a mossy mound beneath its branches. It was vaguely dry under the overhang – or at least, less wet – so after taking a seat, he leant back against the smooth trunk to think.

He couldn’t continue with the way things were. It was just too hard. He’d loved Kathryn for years but his heart couldn’t bear the rejection any longer. A decision had to be made. It was time to move on. He would be her friend and her first officer but he had to close his heart to her and look at making a life for himself with someone else. It was the only way he would survive.

There! Done! He resolved to implement the change. It was simple, straightforward and sensible.

Why then did he feel as though the ground had just collapsed under him?

His people had used visualisation techniques for millennia and he willed them to work for him now. He closed his eyes and looked deeply into his heart. The love was still there – shining bright and constant – but with great effort, he began to envisage doors closing. With a shoulder against a heavy imaginary door, he pushed with all his might. It was just beginning to edge forward when her voice came out of nowhere.

“There you are. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

Chakotay’s eyes shot open to find Kathryn standing a few feet away from him.

He stared for a moment and then did an internal eye roll as he stated the blindingly obvious, “You’re here.”

He pivoted to his feet but in his haste, knocked a low hanging branch. Water rained down on them – drenching both from head to toe.

Kathryn gasped then burst out laughing. “That’s a novel welcome.”

Chakotay stood stolidly without smiling. “Sorry.”

Her brow knitted as she looked at him. “It’s only water, I’ve survived worse.” Leaning forward she stared more intently. “Are you all right, Chakotay?”

“Can we return to the ship now?”

Kathryn’s frown deepened. “You can return anytime you like.”

“Good.”

Smiling gently, Kathryn moved a few paces closer. He could see small droplets of water glistening on her forehead and cheeks, and her eyes were sparkling with delight. Much to his dismay, the door to his heart that he’d been so diligently closing flung itself wide. All the love and desire he felt for her spilled forth and it took all his strength of will not to sigh.

Kathryn looked at him questioningly. “Chakotay?”

“What?”

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

“No.”

Suddenly she paled and grabbed his arm, turning him towards her. “Did they do something to you? Did they harm you somehow? They assured me…”

“I’m fine. They did nothing. In fact, they did less than nothing. We saw no one for the entire time you were gone.”

Her relief was visible – her shoulders slumped as the ashen look of worry faded from her features. “Don’t scare me like that.”

“Scare you?” He frowned as he looked at her and then understood. “Of course. It would interfere with the trade negotiations. Well, rest assured we’re all perfectly fine.”

“The trade negotiations are the last thing on my mind and you don’t look it.”

“Look what?”

“Perfectly fine.”

“Well, we are.”

“What’s wrong, Chakotay?”

He couldn’t hide anything from her; he never could. With a shake of his head, he sighed. “Phaser me if I ever volunteer for anything like this again.”

“Two weeks with Neelix and Tom a little trying, huh?”

“That’s something of an understatement.”

“Fine. From now on, it’s phasers on stun.”

“Thank you.”

“So, ready to go home?”

A smile softened his features for the first time in days. “Very.”

Kathryn grinned and laid her hand on his chest. “I missed you.”

Chakotay raised his eyebrows in surprise. “You did?”

“Yes.”

Something in her look egged him on and smiling, he baited her. “How much?”

Her eyes lit with mischief as she grinned broadly. “A lot.”

Emboldened, Chakotay grasped the hand on his chest and lifted it to his lips; he kissed her fingertips, his eyes never leaving hers. “That much?”

She shook her head and took a step closer to him. “More.”

Cupping her cheek, he drew her near, his lips hovering an inch from hers as he whispered. “This much?”

Again, she shook her head. “Definitely, more.”

Between heartbeats, his lips captured hers in a deep kiss that was filled with warmth and love. As she kissed him back, his heart swelled. After a long moment, he slid his mouth from hers and wrapped his arms tightly around her.

She whispered in his ear. “Almost there.”

He laughed and suddenly the rain didn’t matter anymore.

fin

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