The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea –part 2

He took a step towards her and then shook his head, there wasn't anything to say and even if there was, she wouldn't have wanted to hear it. 'Let me look at your ankle.'

'It's fine, really.'

'Don't be a martyr Captain,' he said lightly, with just an edge of sarcasm.

'All right, I'll behave.' She dropped to the ground and pulled off her boot. 'Go on Doctor Chakotay, do your worst.'

'I promise not to sing opera to you.'

'That's a shame, you've got a nice voice.' He paused in the act of examining her foot as memories from another time and place intruded. He didn't look up at her, moving her ankle in a slow circle instead, hearing the catch in her breathing.

'Did that hurt.'

'Yes,' she replied without irony, 'but I can take it.' He looked up at her then, expecting to see something there, but she looked away too quickly. 'So, what's the verdict?'

'You'll live, it's not broken, a nasty sprain I expect - I'll strap it using my turtle neck.'

'My hero.'

'Well, we're a little short of high tech solutions just now. Fortunately there is a traditional way to treat a sprained ankle and the next bit of that treatment you aren't going to like, stay off the ankle until we get back.'

She sighed, 'you're right, I don't like it, we don't have time for this. If Voyager hasn't found us by morning we'll need to find a way to contact them - and we won't do that with me keeping off my ankle. Just strap it as tightly as you can, it'll be fine.'

'I'm sure they'll come and find us, they're probably looking already. Paris is not going to miss an opportunity to rub this one in.' Her expression changed and he thought he saw embarrassment there. 'It's all right, I expect he'll go easy on you, you are the Captain and it's not as though you crashed the shuttle on purpose.'

Her reaction was instantaneous, her head snapping around so she could look at him, her eyes meeting his for one explosion of a moment before darting away again. A tight knot of dread settled in the pit of his stomach. 'That was supposed to be a joke,' Chakotay said hollowly, 'why aren't you laughing?'

'I didn't know you were going to say that.'

His mind was running rapidly through that accident, fitting together memories that were filled with the frantic anxiety of their attempts to control the shuttle. Massive system failure bought on by a freak crosswind as they were descending into the Planet's atmosphere, no, not even she could have organised that. 'You didn't crash the shuttle deliberately.'

'Of course I didn't!' But he already knew too much, had seen her face in that startled moment when his random remark had hit far too close to home.

'But you thought about it?'

Lies or truth? Her options spun before her, one choice would mean a difficult conversation, that would raise ghosts of emotions best left buried, the other meant dishonesty, betrayal and the end of a trust that meant too much to her.

'Just for a moment, a very brief moment and then I told myself I was being ridiculous.' Chakotay wasn't sure what was worse, knowing that she had thought, however briefly, about crashing the shuttle as a way to stop this, or that she had changed her mind - categorising the whole incident as ridiculous.

'Why didn't you say something?'

'Like what? This is our one big chance to get home, what the hell was I supposed to say Chakotay?' But she knew she could have said something, should have in fact. She had thought, more than once in the last two days that the price was too high, that she should walk away. But the idea of letting down the crew again, of being so near and yet so far again was something she could not contemplate. She wasn't about to let her feelings interfere with this opportunity, whatever the cost she had to get the crew home this time.

She had told herself more than once, in the intervening hours that had Chakotay reacted differently in those first moments then this would not be happening. But, he had not refused outright, as she had half-expected, he had been open minded, cautious but curious. If he hadn't reacted as though she were betraying his deepest feelings who was she to stop this because of an inconvenient emotion she had been ignoring for years now?

She would deny, of course, that she might have been testing him in any way. She had no need to ask for proof of his feelings for her, she had been telling herself for a long time now that it would be better for both of them, for their friendship and command relationship if he found someone else. And his reaction had seemed to offer her proof that he agreed, was happy to do just that.

'We should have discussed it more.' Chakotay said, pulling her out of the tumbling descent her thoughts had become.

'No one forced you into going along with this, I gave you the choice.'

'Oh I know,' he frowned, remembering the scene in his office, 'it was all very, clinical. You told me that you wanted me to marry a complete stranger so that we could get home, with all the lack of emotion of Tuvok at his best. He would have been proud of you Kathryn. Only, of course, Vulcans don't lie.'

'I didn't lie to you.'

'No, you're right. You didn't even do that. But you did let me believe that you didn't care, that my personal life, my feelings were of no interest to you.' He could remember the way she had talked about it, cautious enthusiasm tempered with deference, knowing what she was asking of him. He'd been disappointed, feeling that something precious had slipped away from them, that they had somehow failed to deal with their feelings...or she had.

'You could have said something Chakotay. You seemed so open to the idea, you told me how there had been arranged marriages in the history of your family, of your tribe; that it was accepted that sometimes the future of the family or the tribe had to be secured by a marriage. You met her,'

'Tanka, her name is Tanka.'

'You met with Tanka and her father, you agreed, what was I supposed to say?'

'All you would have had to say was, "don't do this, we'll find another way home," that would have been enough.'

'And let the crew suffer because of our situation?'

'Our situation!' He took a few angry steps away from her, 'you won't stop it, even now will you?'

'I can't do that.' She took a tentative step towards him, touched his arm, turning him back towards her, 'don't you think I wish it was me? That I was the one who could do this?'

'I'm sure you do - I know how far you'd go to get Voyager home, what you'd sacrifice. That's what I am, in a way, the sacrifice you can't make because of the trifling problem of your sex. It's unfortunate the First Minister's oldest child is female, I know how you feel about noble actions.'

'If you don't want to go through with this all you have to do is say.'

'So I can be the one who lets the crew down. If you ask me not to go do this, then I won't.'

'I can't do that. I can't let it be because of us, because of me.' He took hold of her arms, the desperation gripping him as she looked up at him and he saw the tears in her eyes, saw too that she would not shed them.

'Gods Kathryn, you know you've damned both of us, don't you?' But of course she knew, she'd known that all along and she'd done it anyway - and he'd gone along with it, would continue to. So, who was the monster here?

TBC