|Fandom:||Star Trek Voyager|
|Categories:||Ship, Het, Romance, Experimental|
|Summary:||A very different version of the events following Equinox.|
|A/N:||Written for Ripples in the Pond 2004. My A/U twist involved altering Chakotay a bit, but not all writing experiments are a wild success. Seriously, this fic is embarassing, go read something else. I'm usually much better.|
|Credits:||Some attempt at a beta was made by Kim. My apologies to her.|
|Disclaimer:||Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount Pictures. Infringement intended.|
Chakotay found himself on a windy plain. In the distance, trees bent under the force, while at his feet the prarie grass lay on its side. His vision quests had never brought him here before.
"You are angry," his spirit guide said.
"Yes," he replied. "Kathryn almost -- I need some distance from her right now."
"That would be unwise," the guide answered. "She feels harshly towards herself right now. She needs your love."
"She won't accept my love even during the best of times," he said bitterly. "Protocol."
"Protocol caused this. You are responsible as well."
"I'm the one who saved Lessing, how can you say -- "
"You didn't save Lessing. You saved her."
He swallowed hard. "I don't know what to do."
"Go to her and set things right. Not just this rift between you now, but all things. It is time."
They replaced the ship's commission plaque together. Her hand shook as they did it. She owed Chakotay an apology, but what could she possibly say? She certainly didn't deserve his forgiveness, but it seemed she already had it. With his simple words, he let her know that they'd be okay.
She took his hand when she recorded her final log on the fate of the Equinox. Ransom had ultimately died serving the values of Starfleet.
Chakotay left to attend to his duties, and she did the same. Her mind wandered. If she and Chakotay were lovers, she could go to him, and they wouldn't need words, at least not right away. They could take comfort in simple contact, a look, the right gesture.
Then again, wasn't that what they had just done? They'd hung the ship's commission plaque together, and the look in Chakotay's eyes had spoken volumes to her soul.
She pushed it all aside. Right now, Voyager needed the captain it had almost lost. Her emotions could wait for later.
Exhausted, Janeway keyed open her door. She needed a hot bath, a cup of coffee, and the warmth of her bed. Well, at least the bath and the coffee. Sleep wouldn't come easy tonight.
Chakotay rose from her couch and handed her a mug.
Her thoughts spun into chaos. She knew they needed to talk, but she didn't know what to say. She sipped carefully and savored the rich taste of the coffee, trying to concentrate on that and push everything else aside.
"I've drawn you a bath," Chakotay said.
She didn't know what she'd expected him to say, but it wasn't that. "Chakotay -- "
"Not now," he said. "Go enjoy your bath before the water starts to cool."
Bubbles, steaming water, even some soft music. For once she hadn't a clue about her first officer's thoughts. She sank into the tub. She didn't deserve this sort of pampering. She hadn't even deserved his help with the commission plaque. The best first officer in Starfleet, and she'd relieved him of duty for preventing a murder.
Now he was the one extending the peace offering. Her throat tightened. While she wanted nothing more than to restore their friendship, she wasn't sure she was ready.
She closed her eyes, calling up the image of her own face in the mirror after she'd relieved Chakotay from duty. A face she'd hardly recognized, twisted by anger.
She'd almost killed Noah Lessing. At that point she would have killed Ransom if she could have. She shuddered. Thank God she hadn't caught Ransom sooner. Thank God that Chakotay had saved Lessing.
She rose. Her sore muscles appreciated the hot water, but her racing mind took no comfort in it. She pulled on a bathrobe and paced the length of the bathroom. If she returned to the living area, Chakotay would want to talk. She wasn't ready to talk. The words didn't exist that could heal the rift between them.
"Kathryn," he called from the other room. "You can't hide in there all night."
She sighed. Arguing wouldn't help.
Chakotay patted the spot beside him on the couch. She sat and tried to find the elusive words he deserved to hear, but they didn't come. She couldn't even meet his gaze.
He moved closer, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her against his chest. He didn't say a word, but he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
"Chakotay -- "
"This is what we need, Kathryn," he said.
"I'm so sorry," she said. It wasn't enough.
"I know you are," he said. "Don't look for the words. Just let me hold you."
His chest felt warm and solid against her. She could hear the steady beat of his heart, and feel the rise and fall of his breathing. After all the times she had longed to take comfort in his arms, now she didn't want to be soothed.
"We need to change a few things, Kathryn."
She started to sit up. His arms tightened around her. "No, let me talk. You owe me that."
She felt a rush of anger, but she wasn't sure if it was aimed at him, or at herself. She didn't argue. He'd be within his rights to throw her in the brig. If he wanted to lecture her, she could sit still through it.
"It's time we got something out in the open," he said. "I know you don't want to hear this, and now isn't the ideal time. In fact, I doubt the timing could be worse, but it has to be said." He swallowed. "I love you, Kathryn."
She pulled away from him. Had he lost his mind? "Chakotay, we can't -- "
"We can talk about this, and we will. This latest crisis wasn't complicated by our feelings for each other. It was complicated by what we keep hidden."
"What choice do we have? Especially after -- "
"We can stop lying to ourselves, and to each other. How much of what happened was influenced by the boundaries between us? We can't let that happen again."
"It won't," she promised. "I let -- "
"You made some mistakes," he said. "But most of the blame rests with Ransom, and some of it is mine. We should have had this conversation years ago."
"Chakotay, we -- "
He pulled her closer again. "You need me, Kathryn, as much as I need you. No artificial parameters, no protocols. We need honesty, and we need love."
"Not now," she said. "I can't think about this now."
"I'm not asking you to think," he said. "I'm asking you to admit something you already know. We need to get everything out in the open if we're going to heal from this."
The silence stretched between them.
"I almost killed Lessing," she said. "Thank you for stopping me."
"I couldn't do otherwise," he said. "If I'd let you do that -- Kathryn, I've never been as angry as I was at you in that moment."
She started to shake. "I'm -- "
"No," he said. "It's over. You're still my captain, and my closest friend. I still love you with all of my heart. I would have loved you still even if -- " He swallowed hard. "That's why I was so angry."
"I do love you," she said softly. "But there's the ship -- "
"I know your reasons, Kathryn. I agreed with them, but we were both wrong. You reacted to Ransom the way you did because you fear stumbling down his path yourself. You wouldn't feel that way if you weren't so alone."
"I'm not alone," she said. "I have you."
"Not all of me," he said. "But that is going to change. Now let's have dinner."
"You haven't eaten a bite all day." He stood and pulled her to her feet. "That is a clear violation of our new rules. Don't worry, I'll brief you on those later."
He led her to the table. She hadn't even noticed the place settings earlier. He pulled out a chair for her and lit the candles on the table.
"From now on you're having three meals a day." He set a plate before her. "We'll eat at least two of them together."
The food tasted wonderful. "How did you do all of this?"
"It's replicated," he said. "I just added some seasoning." He caught her eye. "Our new parameters won't interfere with the ship. I promise you that."
She nodded. He'd never let her down before.
"On the bridge, you're still the captain, no matter what happens between us. I'd follow you to Hell and back if you asked, and not because I love you. I'll follow you because I respect and admire you."
She met his eyes. "Even after what happened?"
"Yes," he said. "Even after everything that happened with Ransom."
He reached across the table and took her hand. "These quarters aren't the bridge. In here we are equals."
"Of course -- "
"Except for this week," he said. "This week, I'm in charge."
"Chakotay -- "
"I'm not a cave man," he said. "I won't demand anything from you, except honesty. We're going to spend the week redefining parameters, and I'm not going to let you withdraw into your shell. I can't let you hide from me."
She stared at her plate, a little stung by the truth in his accusation. If he hadn't confronted her like this, she probably would have spent weeks avoiding him.
"Kathryn?" He squeezed her hand. "Trust me?"
"With my life," she said.
He woke her the next morning with breakfast in bed. "This doesn't count as a meal together," he said. "B'Elanna's waiting for me. I'll see you for lunch."
The choice had seemed clear before. The ship had to come first, and that left no room for a relationship, because how could it work if it had to take a back seat. Yet Chakotay had just proven her wrong.
He'd brought her breakfast, and then left to attend to the needs of the ship. He'd found a balance. She could do the same.
She didn't see him again until early afternoon, when he crawled down a Jefferies Tube to bring her lunch. He handed her the coffee first.
"Thank you," she said. "But you don't have to wait on me."
"I don't have to do anything." He slid closer and caught her free hand in his. "Well, except for this."
He kissed the back of her hand, sending a jolt of excitement through her. "I love you."
She smiled, savoring the words this time. "I love you too." She put down her coffee. "Are you sure we can do this?"
"I am," he said. "What I can't do is live a lie of omission any longer."
"Then we won't," she said, and leaned in to kiss him softly.
He responded, pulling her close and kissing her thoroughly. When they finally broke apart he reached up to stroke her cheek. "Our new parameters have their advantages."
"They certainly do." She kissed him again. "Now we'd better eat and get back to work."
A week passed. Repairs were going well. The Doctor had released the injured crewmembers from sickbay. The Equinox survivors were even adjusting well.
"Tomorrow I'll cook something," Chakotay promised.
"We should be back to regular shifts by then," she said. "I suppose Neelix will want to throw a party."
"I'm looking forward to it." Chakotay smiled at her.
"You're planning something."
"I'm planning to dance with the most beautiful woman on the ship."
She laughed. "If we don't have to stay for the whole thing I'll make it worth your while."
"I like the sound of that," he said.
They moved over to the couch and she curled up against him. "I like these new parameters. I think I'll keep them."
"Good," Chakotay said. "I don't think I could go back."
"We won't," she said. "I promise we'll only move forward from here."
Just the beginning.
Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties exist as Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, April 2004.