Summary:Episode addition to One Small Step with appropriate J/C ending. Entered in the 2005 PPP contest.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.
The Captain stormed down the corridor on the way to her First Officer’s ready room. She was ropable, fuming. What gave him the right to risk all their lives? Sometimes she wondered what went on in that mind of his. She slammed her hand on the chime, and the doors slid open. He was sitting behind his desk with his monitor in front of him. She could hear astronaut John Kelly’s voice as he spoke about UFOs and the Yankees. She started pacing up and down in front of his desk, almost too angry to speak. Almost.
“Kathryn, can I get you a coffee?” He seemed so composed, she wanted to hit him.
“NO, I don’t want a coffee. What I want is a First Officer who will follow orders and not mindlessly risk the lives of crewmembers that are his responsibility. What were you thinking? Or rather, were you thinking at all? I can’t tell you how angry I am with you. B’Elanna’s your friend. How do you think she’d have felt if both you and Tom had been lost?” Chakotay went to speak but Kathryn waved her hand at him.
“Don’t say anything. If you open your mouth, you’re likely to finish up in the brig. Next time, IF I ever let you off the ship again, you’d better follow orders, do exactly what I say and not deviate a micron.”
She walked over to him and looked down. “This isn’t the first time you’ve done something like this. You’re like a goddamned child. You see something you want and nothing gets in your way, especially rules and regulations. Seven told me what happened, how you ordered them to ignore my direct order. They both argued with you but no, you stubborn, mule headed……” She took a deep breath.
“I have to go. I’m too angry to deal with you at the moment. Just think about it. I need to be able to trust you. You may have to take on this captaincy one day. These people will be your responsibility if anything should happen to me, and I have to know that you’d never risk their lives foolishly.” She headed to the door. She spoke without turning. “Think about it, Commander. Think very hard. There’s a lot at stake.” With that she left. Chakotay was still sitting in the same place as the dying words of John Kelly played over the speaker.
He was angry. How dare she march in here as if she owned the place? Well, he supposed, in essence she did, but – but what? She had a point. His motivation had been purely selfish. He wanted that module. The archaeological significance was enormous, but was it worth their lives? The resounding answer was no, it wasn’t. B’Elanna would have killed him (if she could have got to him). She still might. He hadn’t seen her since they got back. She’d have lost the two people closest to her. And Seven. She’d become such an integral part of this crew. She was the ‘one person answer’ for everything (a little bitter?), but her loss would have hit the captain very hard. He wondered how the captain would have felt about his loss. Would it have just been an inconvenience or would she have been upset on a personal level? Maybe in all that anger there was a little bit of Kathryn coming through. He hoped there was. Not very much of Kathryn came through these days. She’d been almost been completely swallowed up by the captain.
It had been a long six years for all of them. It was hard to maintain the enthusiasm when the end of their journey was still so far away. Finding the Ares IV module was the first time in a long while that he’d felt enthused about anything. Life had become very mundane. The captain probably had every right to be angry, but as far as his job was concerned, at the moment he just didn’t give a toss. When he thought about it, he hadn’t been playing the role of First Officer for quite some time. He spent most of his time writing duty rosters and summarising reports. In the early years their command was a partnership and they’d discussed ideas and orders. She would ask his opinion and value his judgments. Now he was little more than a glorified secretary.
Maybe he wasn’t cut out to be First Officer anymore. He’d obviously lost his edge and the respect of his captain. He probably should feel resentful, but he couldn’t even get his ire up about that. He would think on it. Maybe a vision quest would show him his path. It was worth a try. He shut down his monitor and left his office.
The captain strode on to the Bridge after her meeting with, or rather the dressing down, of her First Officer. What had happened to him? They were all tired and worn out, but it didn’t mean you could just do as you pleased. There was a command structure and protocols and if they weren’t adhered to, the whole house of cards that was their existence, would collapse. She couldn’t do it on her own. She needed him by her side, to be able to trust him, rely on him. He had to be her fall back man. If he couldn’t be there for her, she didn’t have the strength to carry both of them and the crew as well. Couldn’t he see that?
Time for a coffee. It always made her see things more clearly. She sat down on her couch with her cup and looked at the passing stars. She didn’t want to seem overly dramatic but didn’t he understand that all their lives were at stake? She was sometimes so overwhelmed with the task ahead of them that she would love to just bow out, run and hide, but she couldn’t.
Mind you, she’d done that hadn’t she? Opted out in that God awful Void. He’d taken the reins then, hadn’t he? The Equinox came to mind as well. He’d been there for her again, stopping her from making the worst mistake of her career, make that her life. Maybe she had been too harsh with him. Perhaps her fear of losing him had made her overreact, but he was so short sighted sometimes, going off half cocked, not taking time to look at the big picture.
She looked back over the years and thought of all the times he’d put himself or the ship in danger by not thinking of the consequences. There was the time when he raced off after Seska and that transporter module, getting himself kidnapped and nearly killed. She risked all their lives getting him back and then he’d the gall to get all uppity when she and Tuvok didn’t let him in on Tom’s undercover scheme that eventually exposed Jonas as a traitor. That triggered the whole Seska thing with the baby, and the crew finishing up stranded on that volcanic planet, being eaten by giant worms and attacked by cave men.
She was getting mad again. She’d never met anyone who could irk her so much. Even Tom didn’t make her as cross as Chakotay did, and he tried.
He was also the one that insisted on going down to that planet. ‘Come on Captain, it’s a paradise, green and lush with waterfalls and forests. You need a break.’ Of course disaster struck. They got bitten by bugs and stranded again. Although, she thought, that wasn’t such a bad time. She smiled as she remembered the bath and the monkey.
Then, of course, there was that time he saved her life when the alien tried to take her into that matrix. But then again, he crashed the damn shuttle in the first place.
There was that Borg woman. What was her name? Frazier. That’s right. Riley Frazier. He’d slept with her. She was sure of that. He gets himself partially assimilated and reactivates a Borg cube for God’s sake. He certainly didn’t do things in half measures. A Borg cube, for crying out loud. Although he did risk his sanity when he contacted the aliens in chaotic space, he was very afraid but did as she asked.
Was she being too tough? Look at Seven. She woke up an entire race of warlike beings and set them loose in the Delta Quadrant. That had to rate pretty high up there with the things you shouldn’t do, but then for all intents and purposes, she was a child, not an adult with childish tendencies.
Her door chime rang. “Come.” She took another sip of coffee as Tuvok entered her ready room. She made her way down to her desk
“Tuvok, what can I do for you? Is that the report on the debris from the ellipse?”
Tuvok handed the Captain a padd. She sat down and looked it over. Tuvok continued with his report. “Stellar-sciences still has much of the data from the Delta flyer. It will take a number of days to categorise all of the information gathered. The data from the Ares module is also being added to ours. He was a brave man, Lieutenant Kelly. A true hero. His information and that gathered by our away team will be invaluable. On initial analysis, much of the debris within the Ellipse came from parts of the galaxy that are completely unknown to the Federation and some of the samples are extra dimensional in nature. All in all, a fascinating discovery, one that will intrigue Federation scientists for many years. The away team should be very pleased with the outcome of their mission.” Tuvok was looking behind the Captain at nothing in particular but Kathryn felt very much like she had just been chastised.
“Alright, Tuvok. I give. You think I’m being too hard on Commander Chakotay. Please enlighten me as to why I shouldn’t lock him in the brig for ignoring a direct order and risking the lives of Tom and Seven, not to mention the rest of the crew, in our rescue attempt.” She sat back with her arms crossed and waited.
Tuvok looked down at his Captain. “May I sit, Captain?” Janeway indicated with a nod of her head for him to sit down opposite her. Tuvok took his seat and steepled his fingers in front of him.
“I can understand your displeasure regarding the Commander disobeying your orders, but I also understand his desire to retrieve the module. His passion has always been with things of the past. We were all very enthusiastic about this anomaly. I also spoke to Seven Of Nine regarding the importance of discovery and investigation.” He lowered his hands into his lap and looked his captain in the eye. “Our life here in the Delta Quadrant consists primarily of finding ways to subsist and our opportunities for exploration often take second place to survival. Perhaps the Commander became caught up in the moment, but we have all been known at times to act before we consider the consequences. It is a well known human failing. Unfortunate, but not unforgivable.”
Kathryn uncrossed her arms and let them drop to her lap. Tuvok had taken the wind out of her sails somewhat. “You’re right, Tuvok. I was more than happy to send the away team into the Ellipse. I even forced Seven to go, although she was strongly averse to the idea. In essence, I’m as much to blame as the Commander, if not more.”
A flash of exasperation glinted in Tuvok’s eyes. “Captain, this is not about degrees of culpability. This is about understanding the impetus behind the Commander’s decision to disobey your orders. He was there and decided that it was worth the risk. I think you have to allow him that latitude as First Officer. And consider if he had been successful. We would be hailing him a hero, not condemning him.”
The Captain stood up and so did Tuvok. “You’re right, Tuvok. Thank you. I’ll think over what you’ve said and then visit the Commander and see what he has to say for himself. Thank you for keeping a clear head and making me see reason.”
“Captain.” Tuvok turned and left the ready room.
Tuvok was right. She hadn’t been there and she certainly had been known to act ‘spontaneously’ on occasion. She liked to think of it as a gut instinct but it was probably just good luck rather than good management that she hadn’t got them killed many times over. Time to go and redeem the situation and re-establish their working relationship. While she was there she might even try to reconnect on a personal level. She hoped it wasn’t too late.
She made her way past her quarters to his and rang the chime. There was no answer. She rang again. Still no answer. Now she was concerned. “Computer, locate Commander Chakotay.”
“Commander Chakotay is in his quarters.” Maybe he was asleep, but he’d had a severe head injury. Perhaps he wasn’t well. He could be lying in there unconscious. Fear gripped her heart. She overrode the lock and rushed into his darkened quarters.
He was sitting on the floor under his window with his medicine bundle open in front of him. He was deep in his vision quest and had not heard the chime. She was relieved that he was alright. It was quiet and relaxing here in his quarters. The incense was calming and so was his presence. She decided to have a seat and wait for him to come out of his trance.
She sat down opposite him and studied his face. He’d aged over the six years they’d been out here. There were worry lines and wrinkles around his eyes, almost a mirror image of hers. These years of constant worry and stress had aged them both before their time. They used to have fun in the early days when there was still hope that a worm hole or another route home was just around the corner. But the many disappointments and losses had dampened their enthusiasm and a pervading sense of hopelessness and ennui had taken over.
She felt like a real heel now. He showed a little passion for something and she stomped on him. She hoped he’d forgive her. She really did need him, and if she was honest with herself, it was the thought of losing him that had prompted her tirade. It was well past time for mending some bridges. Maybe together they could come up with some morale boosting ideas to help the crew as well as themselves.
She was deep in thought, still staring at his face and hadn’t noticed that his eyes were open. He was looking at her with a quizzical look on his face. “Captain?”
“Oh, hello, Chakotay. I hope you don’t mind my letting myself in? When you didn’t answer your chime, I was worried that your concussion was giving you trouble. How is your head, by the way?” She spoke quietly and was genuinely concerned.
“My head is fine, thank you, Captain. And no, I don’t mind you letting yourself in. You’re welcome anytime. Would you like something to drink? Coffee?” He moved towards the replicator.
“That would be lovely. Thank you. You can put it on my tab if you like. I owe you a few.” She smiled at him as he handed her a cup.
“Captain, I’m glad you’re here. I want to apologise for my lack of foresight, for endangering the lives of Tom and Seven and for putting Voyager at risk. I should have followed your orders. I was wrong.” He looked sad and sorry but what concerned her more was that he looked defeated.
“Chakotay, please call me Kathryn. We’re not on duty now, and there’s no need for you to apologise. You’ve nothing to be sorry for. I came here to apologise to you for my outburst. It was unwarranted and unprofessional and I had no right to blame you for what was essentially my fault. I sent you all into an extremely hazardous situation and when things went wrong, I cast the blame on you. So I’m asking your forgiveness and hoping that we can get past this and back to some sort of understanding.” She took a deep breath. She was more nervous than she realised, worried that he would be angry with her and that she had done irreparable damage to their friendship and command relationship. He was looking at her with the strangest look on his face.
What was it with this woman? One minute she was tearing strips off him and now she was sorry and taking the blame on herself. He never knew where he stood with her. He was starting to get mad now. The rug had been pulled out from under him. Again. He wasn’t sure quite what to say so he got up and went to look out the view port. What he had done was risky and unnecessarily so, and he was willing to accept the consequences. His vision quest had been very confusing and he’d woken from the chaos of that to this bizarre world of apologising captains and contrite commanding officers. Maybe he needed to go back to sickbay to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating.
He turned back towards her. “Capt….Kathryn, I’m sorry. I don’t know what you want of me. I’m willing to accept blame for my failure to follow procedure and promise never to do it again. What I don’t understand is why you’re apologising. Most of what you said to me earlier was true and thinking about it, my impulsiveness has been the catalyst for many of the disastrous situations we’ve endured.” He ran his hand through his hair and rubbed his eyes.
“To be honest, I’m very tired and not really equipped to deal with this now. If you don’t mind, could we talk tomorrow? I’ll have had a chance to catch up on some sleep and perhaps make some sense of my vision. I don’t want to be rude, but you’ve thrown me tonight. I was quite prepared to hand in my resignation as First Officer. Now I’m not sure what you want me to do or what I need to do.”
Kathryn was shocked to her core. Her unthinking words had done this much damage. “Oh, Chakotay, I’m so sorry. I just blazed in and I was unthinking and uncaring. I seem to do that a lot, don’t I? That was rhetorical by the way. You don’t have to answer.”
She gave him a crooked half smile. “Tuvok came and spoke to me, you know. He basically told me to wise up and let you do your job. He accused me of happily going along with the whole idea and then when things went wrong, lashing out at you. I think deep down I knew it was mostly my doing, but I’m so guilt ridden these days that I don’t think there’s room for any more. Lucky you. You get the overflow.” She looked over at Chakotay. His eyes were glinting in the starlight. She wasn’t sure if it was with tears or amusement. She didn’t think she was emotionally prepared to face either, so retreat was in order. “I’ll go and let you get some rest. Make sure you contact the Doctor if your head is worrying you. We’ll talk later when you’re up to it. Goodnight, my friend. Sleep well.” With that she dashed out the door, tears very close to the surface.
She couldn’t believe it. He was seriously thinking of resigning. Boy, she could wreak havoc when she wanted to. Time for some serious self reflection. She decided a tour of the ship was in order.
Where had the kind, compassionate and empathetic woman that was Kathryn Janeway gone? More importantly, if she was gone, was she retrievable or was she gone for good? She tried to think back to when she started to petrify. She thought back over the years and the last time she really cried was when Kes left. It had broken her heart. She loved her like a daughter and her precipitous departure was wrenching. They didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. Up to that point, Kes had been her confidante and in a way her conscience. The young Ocampan had been so innately empathetic, she always knew when Kathryn needed a shoulder to cry on or a word of encouragement.
Now that she looked at it from a distance, it was around that time that she and Chakotay had their first major disagreement and her comments at the time had been callous and hurtful. She had crossed the personal/professional barrier and that was when he started to pull back. Probably for self preservation. She could be vicious when she wanted to be.
Kes had balanced her and encouraged her nurturing side and she missed that. The incident with the Borg, the loss of Kes and the arrival of Seven Of Nine had all put a strain on hers and Chakotay’s relationship. Thinking back, she’d never apologised for her thoughtless words. He’d never abandoned her though. He’d been the one to mend their relationship, but it had never gone back to the carefree ways of the pre-borg days. It was something she regretted and missed.
Her wanderings had brought her to the hydroponics bay. Kes’s domain. Nothing Freudian about that. She wandered in and looked around the plants. Most of the bay was taken up with vegetables and fruits. There was Leola root. Amazing how well it grew. Shame they couldn’t get avocadoes or sweet melons to grow as well. There were still some of Kes’s flowers here. Someone, probably Neelix, made sure they were well looked after. She bent over and touched the petals of a beautiful purple trumpet flower. Then over in the corner, out of line of sight of the door, was another flower bush she hadn’t known was there, but it made her heart beat faster when she saw it. It was a rose bush with a few buds of pale orange/pink blooms. She thought he’d replicated that flower. She still had it. It was pressed in one of her favourite poetry books and every now and then when she was particularly melancholy, she’d get it out and remember that evening on the holodeck. They’d had such a lovely time. It was several months after their return from New Earth and their relationship was still deep and caring.
Where had all those feelings gone? It was such a shame really. They could have had something quite unique but they’d let it wither, or rather she had. Like these plants, relationships had to be nurtured and she certainly hadn’t done that. She’d taken him for granted and expected him to be the one that kept her on an even keel without any emotional support in return. This did not a good captain make, and it certainly made for a lousy human being. She really had her work cut out for her over the next little while.
Now that she was aware of the problems, she was determined to do something about them, if he was willing. God, she hoped he was. She loved him so dearly. If he needed time away from the job, she’d gladly give him leave. She and Tuvok together would be able to take up the slack, giving him the time he needed to find his feet again. She felt invigorated, like all of a sudden someone had turned on the lights and everything looked so clear. The crew morale was something else that needed some attention. She’d organise a meeting with Neelix in the morning to nut out some ideas.
Filled with purpose, she strode back along the decks to her quarters. There were going to be some changes aboard the good ship Voyager. Changes for the better. She couldn’t wait to get started.
After she had scurried out of his quarters, Chakotay had sat and pondered her visit. She never ceased to amaze him. She was like one of those itinerant anomalies and you never quite knew what she was going to do next. Spirits help him. She was his dearest friend and he adored her, but she was also his worst nightmare. She was behind all the good and bad things in his life. How could one woman cause so much disruption in a person’s life without seemingly putting any in any effort? She literally drove him to distraction in every sense. He loved her desperately, but that was it. He was desperate.
His vision quest had been confusing as well and in his tired and fraught state of mind, he was in no shape to try and make sense of it tonight. He would have a quick shower, definitely a water shower night tonight, and then sleep on it.
After his shower, he climbed into bed and lay looking at the familiar lines of his ceiling. Funny how you got to know things so well they were like an old friend. That’s what had been missing. His old friend, Kathryn. The woman, who, at the beginning of this journey, had laughed at his lame jokes, could beat him at hoverball and challenged him on all levels, professional, physical and personal. Life had been an adventure back then, learning about one another. Each new facet uncovered was examined and treasured. There must be some way back to that depth of relationship. It was what sustained him. They were each others foil. They balanced one another and somewhere down the line, through all their travails, they had lost the essence of that bond. Now that he’d analysed what the problem was, he was determined to correct it, and tonight could not be soon enough. He had to make her realise that they needed each other not only to survive, but to thrive. He felt a bubble of joy expand in his chest for the first time in a long time. He knew she probably wouldn’t like his idea for some time away from the bridge, but he needed some space to find himself and it would also do her good to see how much she did rely on him, even though she seemed unaware that she did. Some time apart would do them both the world of good. What was the saying; absence makes the heart grow fonder? He wanted to be the warrior he once was and this was the only way he could see to do it. He would go to her now. He threw on a t-shirt and tracks and headed down the corridor to her quarters. He rang the chime twice. No answer. “Computer locate Captain Janeway”
The tinny voice answered. “Captain Janeway is in the hydroponics bay.” She was obviously on one of her tours around the ship. He knew she did this when she was thinking, or ill at ease, somewhat like the commanders of old who would tour the troop camps on the eve of battle. He decided to wait in her quarters for her to return.
He overrode her lock and entered. He looked around the dimly lit room. It was immaculate of course, but he decided it needed ambience so he replicated some candles and a bottle of wine. After lighting the candles and placing them around the room, he opened the wine, got glasses from the cabinet and sat down on her couch to wait for her return. He hoped that tonight would signify the first steps on a new road that they would travel together.
She arrived back at her quarters and tapped in her code. The doors swished open to reveal candlelight and her First Officer sitting on her couch with an open bottle of wine and two glasses. She was surprised but pleasantly so and relieved too. “Hello there. I’ve just been thinking about you. I’m glad you’re here.” She moved towards the couch and sat down next to Chakotay. “Is one of those for me or are you planning on entertaining someone else in my quarters?”
He smiled and handed her a glass. “I returned the favour and broke into your quarters. I felt I had to explain myself. After you left I had some time to reflect on my vision quest and I think I understand what it was trying to tell me. Kathryn, I think I need to step down as First Officer.”
Her face fell. He hated doing this, but he could see no other way. He had lost himself somewhere over the years. Chakotay, the warrior, had disappeared and he needed to find him again or he’d be of no use to anyone.
“Chakotay, I understand, I really do, but will you listen to me first before you make your decision? I’ve also been doing some thinking and I’ve some things to tell you.” He nodded his head.
She sat back and took a sip of her wine. “This odyssey has been hard on all of us, changed us. I know I’m certainly not the same person I was when we started. After I left you I wandered the ship and found myself in the hydroponics bay, which was rather telling really. My thoughts had been of you and Kes.” She took another sip of wine. “So much has happened to us over the years out here, and so very few of those experiences have been good. We deal with constant stress and as the command team, we rarely have any down time. We’ve battled some of the most hideous aliens and destructive phenomena ever encountered in any quadrant. We spend every day in a different but equally dire battle to survive on the most basic levels, food, energy, all the essential resources. Sometimes I wonder how any of us are still sane. It made me realise not only how resilient we are, but that our resilience comes from our dependence and reliance on each other.”
She placed her hand over his and squeezed it gently. “We’re a team, but over the years I seem to have forgotten that.” She took a deep breath. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done any serious self reflection and it was long overdue. I realised I’ve become almost despotic in my leadership, an attitude that ‘my way’ is the only way and it shouldn’t be like that. It certainly leaves you, as First Officer, with very little leeway, and I’m sorry.” Chakotay leant forward and made to speak but she held up her hand to stop him.
“Please let me finish. Besides, it’s not often you get to hear me admit that I’m wrong.” She gave him a gentle smile so that it didn’t seem quite so much like an order.
“The only excuse I can offer for my behaviour is that the guilt I carry for stranding us here in the Delta Quadrant drives me to find a way home at any cost, but as it turns out, I’m not the only person paying the price. It’s selfish and self indulgent of me to take on the mantle of martyr and it’s no way to be a leader. I’d like to find some way of returning to the type of command structure we had in the early days of our journey.” He smiled to himself. She’d done it again, pre-empted him again. It was a relief to realise that they still thought alike, even after all these years.
“I know just at the moment you don’t think so but I do need you, Chakotay. Today, when you said you’d decided to resign as First Officer, it was the first time in a long while that I’ve felt truly vulnerable. My initial reaction was how can I do this without him?” She shook her head, getting angry with herself. “It made me realise just how much I rely on your steady presence and the solid reassurance that you’re there behind me. It also made me realise how much I take that for granted. For that I apologise.”
She looked him in the eye to show her sincerity and gripped his hand tighter. “That said however, if you need to take some time away from command, and from me,” her throat tightened at the thought that he wanted to be away from her “I’m sure between Tuvok and myself, we can make do. I only ask that even though you’re not on the bridge, I can come and discuss my decisions with you and get your input. I’ll miss having you there.” She leant forward and took his other hand and looked deep into his eyes. “I have one other request, before you say anything. I’d also like your assurance that you’ll eventually return as my First Officer and you have my word of honour that I’ll be less of a tyrant.” She was exhausted. Revealing the inner workings of Kathryn Janeway was a tiring business. She sat looking at him expectantly, worried that it was too late. She really couldn’t contemplate losing him. Over the years he’d become such an integral part of her, as dear to her as her next breath, but just like breathing, she’d taken him for granted.
He sat, slightly stunned by her revelations. If nothing else, you could always rely on Kathryn to surprise you. Just when you thought you had her pegged, she’d turn the tables on you and leave you floundering. He smiled to himself. She really was something and she was right. Together they were a great team. He thought back to the images of his vision quest, of the grey slab of rock covered in the markings of his tribe on which he stood, reminding him of his heritage, his strength and his warrior heart. Surrounding him was a darkening desert landscape with the horizon all around obscured, no clear path in any direction. Each time he went to take a step off the rock in any direction, lightening would flash on that path driving him back. He interpreted it as being stuck, trapped, but maybe what it was trying to tell him was that he had to take a risk, to overcome his inertia by being the brave warrior he was and driving forward. Nothing worth having comes without risk or danger.
Kathryn was still waiting for him to say something. She was nervous. He could always tell. She was fidgeting and looking around the room. It gave him a slightly perverse sense of pleasure that she was so worried about his answer. She wasn’t sure of herself, which was a new experience for her, and it was certainly a new experience for him to behold. The fact that she was so worried made him understand how much he really did mean to her, and that thought alone was a balm to his wounded soul. He turned her hands over in his and gave them a squeeze. He looked at her and gave her a smile.
“I take back my resignation. I think I’d like to stay on as First Officer with my non-tyrannical captain?” She beamed at him and her shoulders slumped in relief. “I’m sorry, Kathryn, I’ve managed to lose my way over the years, but I don’t think it’ll take much to get back to where we were. They were good times, Kathryn.” She cocked an eyebrow at him. “I know we were being shot at by Vidians and Kazon but it was all so new and exciting. Don’t worry, I know it won’t be the same and I don’t want it to be. Our relationship has matured and deepened over this time, but I don’t love you any less.” There. He’d said it. Now he waited for the backlash.
“I’m glad.” She smiled at him gently and then almost laughed at the shocked look on his face. “What? You thought you were the only one in love?”
He opened then closed his mouth like a fish. She’d done it again. When was he going to realise he was never going to get the last word with her? He was going to have to learn to be resilient if he was going to survive. They were in for a wild ride.
“Kathryn, you keep doing that to me. Just when I think I know how your mind works, you head off in a completely different direction and leave me totally confused. Why haven’t you told me that you loved me? For years I have thought that you only wanted to be friends. You never cease to amaze me.” He smiled and shook his head in awe.
“Let’s hope I never stop. Life would be pretty boring if we knew exactly what each other was thinking all of the time. You were astoundingly easy to read, my love. It is all written in those beautiful black eyes of yours. The crew and I knew how you felt about me for years, Chakotay. You were an open book.”
“Why didn’t you say something? I’ve been waiting all these years, thinking you didn’t care. What was all the talk of protocols and regulations?”
“It was my way of giving you a hint. If you’d taken the time to read those protocols and regulations, you’d have found that I, as your commanding officer, can’t initiate a relationship. It has to be initiated by the subordinate. You. When you hadn’t made a move over the years, I thought that you weren’t in love with me anymore. Oh, I knew you loved me as a friend, but you weren’t in love with me. My hands were tied. It was up to you.” She reached up and caressed his cheek lovingly. He closed his eyes. Today had been something else. They’d both run the full gamut of emotions and now it looked like their life was about to take a completely different road, one he’d hoped for since the beginning of their journey. He couldn’t believe it. All he’d ever wanted was now his for the asking. She was sitting here before him, looking at him lovingly. He wanted to leap for joy, to holler to the universe, but he didn’t. Instead tears ran down his face. He wrapped his arms around her and she did the same.
“Oh, Chakotay, my love. I hope they’re happy tears or we’re in deep trouble.” She was running her hands through his hair and down his back trying to sooth him. She hadn’t known his emotions were so close to the surface. She should have realised what his reaction would have been. She pulled back a bit and kissed his tear stained face and wiped the tears with her fingers.
“They’re definitely happy tears, Kathryn. My heart is so full it’s overflowing. To think we’ve loved each other all these years. It makes me a little sad to think of all the time we’ve wasted.”
“Try not to think of it as wasted. Any time I’ve spent with you has been time well spent, and think of all the making up we have to do. We’re going to be busy.” He looked at the desire in her eyes and forgot entirely about feeling sorry for himself.
“Spirits, woman. Come here.” He grabbed her and pushed her under him on her couch. He was resting on his elbows with his hands were on either side of her face. Looking down at her he gently rubbed his thumbs over her cheeks, under her eyes and around her lips. He slowly bent forward and touched his lips to hers. They both moaned as they kissed for the first time. He pulled back and looked at her again. She was smiling happily, then a wicked glint came into her eye.
“I tell you what, Chakotay. How about you go back to your quarters and grab some overnight gear and a uniform for tomorrow. I’ll time you. Maybe when you get back, I’ll have the bed turned down and be waiting for you.” She laughed at the stunned look on his face. He didn’t move. “Time is a wasting, Commander. I’m pretty tired. If you take too long, I may be asleep by the time you get back.”
That jolted him into action. He bent down and kissed her hard on the lips. “You stay awake. I’ll be back before you can say ‘Tuvok to Captain Janeway’.” He was out the door before her laughter died.
She picked up the wine and glasses and took them into the bedroom. She grabbed her cream silk nightdress and headed to the bathroom. She could hear Chakotay clattering and banging away in his quarters next door. He seemed to be in an awful hurry. She smiled to herself, pleased and relieved that he was so enthusiastic. She took a two minute sonic shower, brushed out her hair and strategically dabbed a few drops of perfume on her body. She lowered the lights in the bedroom and carried a few of the candles in from the living area. That done, she climbed into bed to wait for his return.
Less than a minute later, he stumbled through the door with an overnight bag in one hand, toiletries in the other and his uniform flung over his shoulder. He was flushed and smiling.
“How was my time? Beat any records?” All of a sudden he noticed what she was wearing, where she was lying and how beautiful she looked. “Kathryn, you’re beautiful. I can’t tell you how much I love you and how happy I am at this moment. This is like a dream come true, I never imagined….”
“Chakotay, come to bed. You’re babbling.” She got up on her hands and knees and crawled across the bed towards him. Her slow prowl across the bed certainly stopped him talking. In fact he was having trouble having a coherent thought, let alone getting those thoughts to translate into action of any kind. He shook himself out of his stupor and dropped his bags and uniform on the floor then knelt on the side of the bed. She had an almost feral smile on her face and it made his heart thud in his chest. She was a passionate woman in life and she certainly didn’t seem shy in the bedroom. All of a sudden he was very nervous.
She sensed his hesitancy. “Chakotay if this isn’t what you want, you only have to tell me. I have to ask you this. I won’t be offended. Heartbroken, but…”
He placed his fingers gently over her lips to stop her speaking.
“Kathryn, I’ve wanted this, you, all of this” he made a sweeping movement with his arm, “for so long. I’m just nervous. I don’t want to disappoint you. I’ve fantasised about making love to you so many times that I’m worried that the reality will be an anticlimax for you.” He looked so soulful and adorable she just wanted to hug him and the wonderful thing was, she could. She moved forward slowly and wrapped her arms around his neck. She brought her mouth close to his ear and whispered.
“How about we just let the climaxes take care of themselves.” She ran her hands through his hair and bit down on his ear lobe before moving down to his neck, kissing and nibbling as she went. He groaned and held her tight to him. He was a goner. They fell back on the bed and time became an abstract concept.
Many hours later they lay together, sated and joyous, just revelling in the closeness and intimacy of being lovers at last. She was all he’d imagined; passionate, inventive, vocal and loving. They lay together with their hands clasped, watching as their fingers caressed each others knuckles. He rolled on his side slightly and looked at his lover. He decided that he had to know where he stood now and where this was leading.
“Kathryn, this was wonderful. I love you and have for years, but I need to know what we’re going to do about this. I don’t think I can go back to just being your friend.” He was very unsure. Kathryn realised again how she’d managed to undermine this man’s confidence over the years. Time to relinquish control. She needed a rest anyway.
“Chakotay, I love you too, with all my heart, and my gift to you is me. You can choose how you want this relationship to develop. If you want me or not, where you want to live, although I did have plans on removing that wall over there and combining our quarters, maybe even turning your room into a nursery one day.” His mouth fell open in shock. Nursery? He’d always imagined her as the mother of his children. “However the decisions are up to you. I’ve been prepared for this relationship for many years, but all this is new to you, so take some time to think about it if you like. I’m still the captain outside of these quarters, but in here I’m just a woman in love with a man. You.” The look on her face was gentle and sincere and overflowing with love. He felt like crying again. This was becoming a bad habit and not a particularly masculine one. She’d done it to him again. Completely thrown him. He really was going to have to get used to this.
“Kathryn, that sounds perfect, and more than I could have hoped for. You’re amazing and I love you. There are just a few things I’ll ask. I don’t want to keep this hidden from the crew, and I don’t think I could anyway. I guarantee they’d notice the fact that I’m floating about six inches off the ground I’m so happy. Whether or not you inform Starfleet is entirely up to you. You know better than I what their reaction may be. Mind you, they’ll be bound to find out sooner or later through the crews communiqués.”
She leant down and kissed him. “Chakotay you worry too much. The crew know how we feel about each other and I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic that we’re finally together. Starfleet can go hang for all I care. They’re 30,000 light years away. What can they do? If you like, I can run it by Owen Paris next time I speak to him, but rest assured no matter what they say, I’m with you for the long haul. There’s no way I’d choose Starfleet over you. Starfleet is my job. You’re my life. There’s no competition.” He was astonished. He’d had no idea she felt this way. She’d certainly fooled him, although when he thought about it, she’d always acknowledged the special bond they had and the touching and games of eye tag on the bridge sometimes had been so intense, he’d had to excuse himself. He still couldn’t quite believe it.
“Chakotay, I do have one proviso.” She looked at him very seriously and took a deep breath.” Chakotay, I won’t marry you.” His face fell and he looked devastated. He knew it was too good to be true. He wasn’t good enough for her to commit to publicly. He pulled his hand away from hers and went to get out of bed. “Let me explain, Chakotay. Please.” She grabbed his hand and rested them on her stomach. “Sorry that was too blunt, but I have a valid reason. I’ve been engaged twice in my life and in both cases, I’ve lost the men I loved. I won’t risk that with you. Call me superstitious but I won’t be engaged to marry again.” She reached up and turned his face towards her and looked into his eyes. “I will make a vow to you now though. I promise to love you forever, to be the wife of your heart and partner to your soul and be with you until death. I love you, my angry warrior.” She watched his reaction, her eyes never leaving his.
“Oh Spirits, Kathryn, you’ve always been the wife of my heart.” He bowed his head and took her hand in his. After a moment he raised his eyes and looked at her solemnly “Kathryn, I love you with all of my heart and soul and from this day I give them into your keeping. I’ve loved you forever and will continue to love you through this life and the next. You’re my reason for living, my proud, beautiful warrior woman.”
They were both smiling at each other, so happy and at peace. Kathryn leaned forward and kissed him sweetly to seal the pact. All of a sudden her stomach growled. She laughed. “That was sexy. Shall we go to the mess hall for dinner and then to Sandrines for a congratulatory drink? I think the crew would love to see us together. What do you say, Chakotay? Are you ready for the reactions of the likes of Tom and Harry? I imagine there’ll be some sad female ensigns around too when the word gets out that Voyager’s best catch is out of commission. Are you ready for the fall out?”
He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers. “With you by my side, my love, I can handle anything. Shall we go and brave the lions?” He grabbed her around the waist and tackled her back onto the bed.
Kathryn laughed. “Whoa, down boy. We’ve the whole night ahead of us and then the rest of our lives waiting for us. Don’t forget we’re not as young as we used to be, so we probably should pace ourselves.” He was laughing at her, dimples in full bloom. She was watching the joyous look on his face and was so glad that she brought him such happiness. He was caressing her hair and her face and kissing her neck. She closed her eyes and tipped her head back to give him better access.
“You know, all of a sudden I’m not that hungry anymore. Maybe dinner can wait, and we can always catch up with the crew tomorrow, mmmm?” Chakotay was in full agreement. Dinner could definitely wait, and maybe they weren’t that old after all.