Warnings: Tag for an episode with contents that could be interpreted as self-harm through character recklessness.
Categories: GEN, Episode Tag, Friendship
Pairings: GEN Janeway&Chakotay Friendship, possible UST subtext
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
Spoilers: The Fight
A/N: Written for Talent Night.
Credits: Thank you to Anne Rose for the beta.
Disclaimer: Paramount, will you never learn? You leave threads laying around, and they'll get stolen.
Battering a holographic foe with his fists probably wasn't the best way to excise his demons, but Chakotay didn't care. He didn't want to think; not yet. Fear rarely got the better of him, but it had nearly done just that the day before. Death he was willing to face; he would die for this ship if necessary. But mental illness, living without control of his faculties, that frightened him deeply. More than he would have expected.
The bell rang, signaling the end of the match, and he realized that someone was watching him. Kathryn was standing behind the holographic Boothby. Did she know how close they had come to losing this time, just because he almost hadn't mustered the courage to do what was needed? Her plea in sickbay had made all the difference; he had come through in the end. But never before had he come so close to failing her.
The crisis was ended. The ship was safe for another day. But at what cost? Kathryn looked up into the face of her first officer. He had saved them all, and she felt a surge of pride that he had overcome so much. But at what cost? She had used his feelings to manipulate him and she had put him at risk. She was here seeking his forgiveness, but did she really deserve it?
He smiled at her. A little half smile, one that didn't show his dimples or reach his eyes. The sort of smile one gave to be polite. Would their friendship be the victim of her single-mindedness during the crisis? A chill ran through her at the thought of losing him.
He climbed through the ropes and jumped down to stand beside her. The urge to touch him nearly overwhelmed her, as if she needed to prove to herself that he was real, and not just a hologram like Boothby and the defeated sparring partner.
For the second time in as many hours, she forced a cheerfulness she didn't feel into her voice. "So when's the big match? I'd like to put some rations on it."
"Kathryn, I'm sorry."
"I nearly let you down."
She looked at him in surprise. "You saved the ship."
"I almost didn't."
"But you did." She gripped his hand tightly in her own. "You saved the ship, and I know how hard that had to be for you."
"It was. If it hadn't been for you - "
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have put you in that position, Chakotay. I should have found another way."
"Kathryn, there wasn't another way." He squeezed her hand in return. "You have nothing to apologize for."
"Of course not."
"I used your feelings."
He shook his head. "No. You reminded me of what really matters, and I'm glad you did."
"Dinner tonight? I'd like to reward you for your heroism."
He smiled, and this time she saw dimples and a twinkle in his eye. "If you mean to reward me with your cooking, I think I'll pass. Your company, however, would be very welcome."
She laughed. "You cook, I'll bring the wine."
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