Categories: GEN, Friendship, Episode Tag, Hurt/Comfort
Pairings: GEN, Janeway&Chakotay Friendship, UST subtext
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
A/N: Everyone has a Coda story. Here, for no particular reason, is mine.
Disclaimer: Paramount's property, as we all well know.
The holodeck. Lake George. A splendid idea. Then again, she could have invited him to the South Pole to watch the penguins and he would have thought it a splendid plan.
He just needed to be with her; alone with her. He always wanted to be with her, but today he needed to be with her.
Today had been one of the hardest days of his life. Not as bad as the day he had learned about the Cardassian attack on Trebus, but surprisingly close. Surprising, because everything had turned out fine.
But she'd been dead in his arms. Dead. If it weren't for the Doctor, and Tuvok's still unexplained departure from protocol, she'd be dead now. He never would ask Tuvok what had prompted him to leave the ship and bring the Doctor to the surface; he would just be grateful. So what if the ship had been without its three most senior officers, as well as its CMO? Everything was fine now, and that was all that mattered. Voyager still had her captain.
He walked down the corridor to her quarters. She greeted him cheerfully, the promised bottle of champagne in hand. He was willing to be cheerful. He was willing to be anything she required.
First officer, friend, perhaps more. Someday. That was her call, and while he wasn't exactly content to wait, he was willing to wait, at least as long as she needed to wait.
Her needs would always come first. He accepted that without question on the day he realized that he had fallen in love with her. But tonight he had a need, and he didn't want to ignore it.
He offered his arm. She grinned and took it. Together, they set out for the holodeck. Was it his imagination, or was she gripping his arm a bit tighter than was her usual habit? There had been more to her ordeal than she had included in her report. She'd tell him. Wouldn't she?
She held his arm for support. It had been a hard day, and she needed to be with him. She wanted to relax, but she didn't want to be alone. His strength and companionship were what she needed to recover.
The moment they were safely alone in the holodeck, he laid his hand over hers and treated her to a warm, dimpled smile.
She smiled back. "Computer, run program Lake George gamma one."
Upstate New York came into existence around them. Moonlight shimmered on the glassy surface of the lake.
"This is beautiful, Kathryn."
"It is, isn't it?"
They headed for the sailboat.
She still hadn't told him. The sailing was nice. Being near her was necessary. But he needed to help her recuperate, and he needed to be able to put this behind him.
He poured the champagne. "Tell me. You need to tell someone."
She shook her head. "Not just someone. You. I need to tell you."
He felt that acknowledgment of their friendship to the core of his being, and had to fight not to touch her. She touched him instead.
Her hand lightly stroked his arm as she described the series of deaths she had experienced. He knew she was leaving out some details, but he didn't push. It was clear to him exactly what she was glossing over, and why. The words weren't necessary to either of them.
His heart ached in response to the pain in her voice when she told him about her father; or rather, the alien impersonating her father.
"It hurt to watch my crew grieve," she said. "I kept trying to assure people that I wasn't dead, but they couldn't hear me. It made me feel helpless."
"The alien wanted you to feel helpless, I think." He took her hand and squeezed it gently. "He was trying to make you give up."
"I almost did," she whispered. "Then I heard your voice. You were telling me to keep fighting. It confirmed my hunch; nothing I was seeing was real."
He was suddenly thankful for his lack of restraint on the planet. How many times had he called her name? At the time, he had been too frightened to care how he sounded to the Doctor and Tuvok. Afterwards, he had cringed at his lack of control. But hearing this, he was grateful. More than grateful.
"I'm glad you heard me, Kathryn."
She looked at him. His dark eyes were full of pain. Today must have been hard on him. Whether or not the scene she had witnessed earlier had been real didn't truly matter. It had obviously been accurate either way.
Her hand came up to rest lightly on his chest, but it wasn't enough. "Oh Chakotay."
She moved close and slid her arms around him. His arms closed around her. She felt his struggle to keep the embrace brief, and felt him lose the battle.
He clutched her to his chest. A muffled sound, like a sob, escaped him.
She stroked his back soothingly. "You saved my life, Chakotay. Thank you."
They held each other for a long moment. Protocol could not outweigh their needs on this night. He had almost lost a dear friend; she had nearly lost her life. A little human contact was what they both needed to put this day behind them and continue in their quest for home.
Someday, more would be possible. For now, they had this friendship, and that was more valuable than anything else in the galaxy.
A gift from Dakota.
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