Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount own Voyager and everything associated with it
Notes: A short study. Keeping secrets isn't always easy. Janeway's world is soon turned upside down.
The Bridge staff were all busy working at their
respective stations, reporting damage and rerouting power to key systems.
A hostile alien race had chosen their first contact to be weapons fire and,
while Voyager's crew had managed to disable the offending vessel, the ship had
sustained moderate damage. Since they were out of danger for the time being, the Captain's decision to
leave her post to go and check on her injured First Officer in Sickbay was met
with a relaxed indifference - most barely nodded an acknowledgement.
Nobody except Kathryn herself knew the fear that had gripped her heart and shortened her breath upon learning the news that Chakotay was hurt.
Kathryn walked to the turbolift doors, careful to maintain a normal walking pace while every clenched muscle in her legs screamed her body's will to run. She jabbed the call button impatiently, clamping her jaws together to still the effect of the cold tremors inching down her spine and to ensure that the disjointed pleading inside her head didn't escape her lips. Time was passing by so slowly, just as it had back on that night two months ago...
* * *
The evening she and Chakotay had decided to share
had passed pleasantly - abandoning plans for a game of Velocity on the Holodeck
in favour of a lazy dinner and quiet conversation accompanied by a bottle of
wine with a distinctly questionable taste. The night seemed to stretch on
forever, and as unhurried minutes developed slowly into long hours she became
fully aware that there was no other person she'd rather spend this extended
eternity with. Gradually they came to a point of discussion they had never
touched upon quite by accident.
"...I could tell you weren't going to grant his request before he'd even finished speaking. That look on your face gives you away every time." Chakotay grinned at her as he fetched the bottle from the table.
"What look on my face? What do you mean?!" She challenged indignantly.
"I know you think you can hide it. You can't, by the way. Pass your glass."
Kathryn held out her glass obediently, watching the crimson liquid trickle sluggishly with narrowed eyes.
"Kathryn, this wine tastes awful. What were you thinking when you replicated it?" He filled his own glass and settled down on the sofa next to her. She turned to face him, tucking her legs beneath her.
"Maybe I was distracted by your feeble attempts at changing the subject."
"Is this my third glass?"
"I became well-accustomed to that look back on New Earth. Any hint of something you didn't want to do and that expression came down like a sheet of steel. It actually saved me a lot of unnecessary energy - I knew there was no point arguing once you gave me that look."
Kathryn set her mouth obstinately.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"Would you like to take a camping trip on the Holodeck sometime?"
Kathryn wrinkled her nose before she could stop herself. Chakotay turned a laugh into a spluttering cough as she elbowed him sharply.
"You're exaggerating," She muttered sulkily.
"Yes, I am - you only look like that for a moment." He swilled the last dregs of wine around his glass. "What do you think would have happened if we had stayed on New Earth?" Chakotay broached the subject so casually that she wondered why they had never mentioned it before.
She rested her chin on her knuckles thoughtfully, catching sight of the pocketwatch he had given her for her last birthday across the room. For a moment the hands seemed to slip into reverse and her memory were being dragged backwards, slipping over engravings in the past...
"I always assumed that sooner or later you'd tire of my complaining, throw me out and leave me to set up house with the monkey," Kathryn remarked calmly and tilted her glass to catch the last few drops of liquid.
"I thought we'd have lived perfectly happy lives together." Chakotay protested.
"I agree. Provided you did everything I told you to, of course."
"You'd have succumbed to my charms in time." Kathryn felt a mild blush touch her cheeks, and busied herself in clumsily emptying the remaining contents of the bottle into their glasses. As she sank back into the sofa she found herself sitting much closer to him than before. Once their eyes met she began to edge away dutifully.
"Wait," Chakotay muttered softly, and she felt time slow to a crawl. In the age it took for Kathryn to lower her eyes she knew exactly what she wanted to do.
"I always did wonder what happened to the angry warrior..." She murmured, keeping her eyes downcast.
"He did exactly as the warrior princess said." He offered loosely. Kathryn set the glasses down and stretched herself up towards him.
"I know you think you can hide it," She whispered breathlessly into his ear, twining her arms round him, "By the way, you can't."
"You know what they say about good things..."
Kathryn relaxed into the kisses, keeping pace with the steady beat of her heart and not feeling troubled that she hadn't said anything more. For that...there was all the time in the world.
* * *
Kathryn resisted the urge to smack the turbolift doors angrily. It had taken Tuvok only a split second to inform her that the system was offline, and already that seemed like an aeon when she considered how long it would take her to traverse the Jeffries tubes. Mapping out the shortest route to Sickbay in her head, she made her way to the exit off the Bridge with her pulse quickening in her ears.
* * *
The next week Kathryn had headed straight to
Chakotay's quarters at the end of her shift. Fidgeting all the way with
her hair, uniform or fingernails, she could hardly keep her hand still long enough to press
the doorchime. The cheerful "Come in" from within tightened a
knot that had been forming in her stomach since that morning. Hearing
Chakotay's voice sparked a glad feeling of warmth as always, but a pang of anxiety got mixed in somewhere and she
"I'm in here."
Kathryn followed his voice through the quarters until she came across him sitting on his bed reading a book. Her heartrate began to accelerate gradually and all the moisture evaporated from her mouth in an instant.
"I -" She faltered. Most of the courage and resolve she had gathered on the way over had dispelled and she stood in the doorway on unsteady legs, struggling to focus.
"Is everything all right?" He set the text aside and moved his legs to sit on the edge of the bed, patting the spot next to him. Kathryn perched next to him gingerly, but didn't hold for much more than a minute before crawling into his lap and resting her head on his shoulder dejectedly. Too exhausted to think, it was a moment before she answered.
"We shouldn't be doing this, should we?" Her voice was muffled by the fabric of his clothes, but the words rang clear.
"Probably not," He held her more tightly, although they both knew her inclination to pull away had been lost.
"We shouldn't fall in love...not while you're my subordinate," Kathryn felt her chest tighten as she drew her head up to look at him properly. Chakotay watched her with glazed eyes.
"It's already too late, isn't it?" She said quietly, knowing that she didn't need an answer.
* * *
Down she climbed through the Jeffries' tubes, palms slipping on the thin ladder rungs as she tried in vain to hurry. The rhythmic taps of her boots on the descent beat an anxious refrain in her head, serving as a nervous soundtrack to the worst case scenarios flashing through her mind. She scrambled through more hatches than she cared to count, banging her shins on most of them in her haste. Hearing nothing more than dull static from her combadge, Kathryn clenched her fists and continued ploughing on down through the decks.
* * *
Expressing her doubts only seemed to add a new level of intensity to their relationship. For one week Kathryn had known a sweet, gentle love as she took uncertain steps with Chakotay - now they raced forward with a ferocious passion and raging sense of urgency between them she had never experienced before. Sending messages between padds and stealing glances in the corridors had progressed to several intense encounters in the cargo bay, shuttlebay, briefing room, ready room...even once on the upper level of Engineering, she recalled with a crimson flush. Nothing was lost in the rush as they hastened to explore all the possibilities they had missed for so many years...
* * *
Kathryn felt relief snake through her nerves as
she emerged onto deck five, hobbling along on tired, bruised legs as fast as she
could manage. There was a relentless ticking coursing through her
veins which developed into a thundering ostinato with every laboured step and sharp jabs of pain plagued her every movement as she chased the clock, counting
each footstep until the end of the race. Finally
she reached the medical bay and had to hover in the doorway as the force of
the frenzy she had worked herself into collided with the peaceful hush beyond the finish line. She collected herself somewhat and walked steadily
towards the biobed where Chakotay was lying and craning his neck to see her with
a little difficulty. He was perhaps a little pale, but otherwise
"How are you?" Kathryn clutched at his hand, shifting sideways to hide it from the Doctor's view.
"'Broken rib, minor surgery...I'll live." His eyes darted to the left; confirming with a slight nod that the Doctor was busily working on another patient, "I want to kiss you, but there are too many people around," He added in an undertone.
"I know," Kathryn mumbled, barely moving her lips.
"The Doctor told me that a lot of key systems are down - I know you must have rushed down here as soon as you could. I'm sorry."
Kathryn looked away, suddenly very conscious of her sticky uniform and dishevelled appearance. Chakotay continued, a trace of a smile touching the edge of his mouth:
"You know, when you stopped by the door there I was reminded a little of the way you looked that day you tried to end things with me," He frowned a little as he gave her a searching look. "Are you going to do that again now?"
She moved and pretended to study the display panels on the side of the bed.
"I'd rather have fifty scares like this than have pushed you away again that night," Kathryn murmured thickly. "Is it always going to be this hard?"
"I think we already discussed that."
He knew without looking that she was absent-mindedly fingering the front seam of her uniform - underneath which she wore on a thin chain the engagement ring he had given her. 'Is it too soon?' he had asked while waiting for her answer, feeling strangely calm as he held out the ring box.
'I'd say yes whether you asked today or in ten years. Of course I'll marry you.' In a bizarre reversal of their standard procedures on Voyager - where they had been known to fully assess any given situation for a full week before reaching a conclusion - they had spent the rest of the day and most of that night contemplating the decision once it had already been made. Nevertheless, the ring remained securely on Kathryn's finger and the stones sparkled as they caught the light when she gestured.
Chakotay was nudged out of his reverie as a shadow passed over him in the form of the Doctor.
"I'm afraid the game's up, Captain," The Doctor remarked nonchalantly. Kathryn shot Chakotay a worried look behind the hologram's back.
"I received a message from the Bridge on my console requesting you return there to look over the repairs schedule. The turbolift system is up and running again, so I told them you'd be back shortly."
"Thank you, Doctor," Kathryn acknowledged with a heavy heart. "I'll see you later," She intoned to Chakotay, letting her expression convey what her voice couldn't.
Back on the Bridge Kathryn mechanically carried out her duties, pausing only to rub the muscles in her neck absently. Although everything around her was running like clockwork she couldn't shake the feeling that she was somehow apart from everyone else, standing suspended in time while the watch was wound and a countdown to catastrophe was set all over again.
~ End ~
This was my third completed Voyager fic and was sent to Kate04 as part of VAMB's Secret Santa Exchange 2006 - special thanks and a big 'well done' to Shayenne for organising the aforementioned exchange. Unfortunately I was unable to work on the piece for an extended period of time (do always remember to take all the pieces you want to work on when you go away...) and so even though I finished it the way I originally intended, there may be some things amiss - loose ends, as it were. Comments to miss_myu(at)hotmail.com.