The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea - part 7

Chakotay sighed heavily and leaned back against the wall. As undignified as it was to be waiting out here in the corridor like a supplicant it was far more undignified to have your wedding interrupted by a holo-projection of you seducing someone other than your bride. The other victim of this prank?, fiasco?, disaster?, was in the Council Chamber with the First Minister trying to salvage something, Chakotay didn't like her chances.

He'd already sent the rest of the Senior staff back to the ship with dire warnings of what would happen to them if they so much as breathed a word of what they had witnessed. B'Elanna and Tom he had confined to quarters, briefly wondering if there was anywhere on the ship where they would be safe from the wrath of Kathryn Janeway, before deciding that it wasn't up to him to protect them, they had bought this on themselves.

Unfortunately he was quite sure they were saying the same thing about he and Kathryn.

He sighed again and wished it was as easy to rid his mind of the images of the two of them from last night as it had been to turn off the holo-projector. Or, on the other hand, he wished he weren't so certain what Kathryn's attitude would be. He could see it now, deny and dissemble, pretend it never happened and if he was too insistent, find ways of pushing him away. It was a masterful strategy, unfortunately she'd used it on him once too often now. But he was concerned for her, quite apart from the game they had to play out, failure did not become her and he knew from experience what a harsh judge she could be of her own actions. That she would blame herself for this was as inevitable as the passage of time.

Ever since he'd woken up this morning, alone of course, and still a little unsure if he'd just experienced a very vivid dream or the real thing, he'd been wondering what had possessed them. They had certainly not behaved like people endeavouring to get over how they felt about each other. Somehow he knew he would never succeed in convincing himself that it was just a way of saying goodbye, or of quenching the curiosity that would otherwise torture them both. On virtually no evidence he still believed that their one night together had meant more than that and now he was determined to find out if he was right, or a romantic fool.

Looking at it in that light B'El and Tom had probably done him a favour, saved three people from an intolerable situation which would only have made them all miserable. He just wasn't sure that Kathryn would appreciate the gesture if it cost them a way home.

Thinking about it rationally it was ridiculous that he had intended to go ahead with the wedding. But Kathryn had not been there to tell him to stop, there had been no declaration of her feelings, she had not even spent the entire night with him. So perhaps a small part of him had enjoyed the idea of punishing her, putting her through some of the pain he had experienced over the last few years. That didn't make him a very nice person he realised suddenly, he wasn't prepared to hide behind the crew, the way she did. The simple fact was he still wasn't sure how she felt about him, and she had been prepared to let him go through with the wedding too. Really they were no further forward, if anything the situation was more confused than ever.

The doors slid open while he was trying in vain to decipher a way of moving forward. The First Minister and his retinue strode out, not even looking at him as they swept past. Half a step behind them was Tuvok.

'How is it?' Chakotay asked, pushing himself away from the wall and then wondered why it mattered if Tuvok caught him slouching.

'I don't envy you.' Tuvok responded with great care.

'Oh,' Chakotay sighed, 'as bad as that.'

She was standing by the windows - one hand on her hip, the other braced on the glass; even her pose was uncompromising. She didn't acknowledge his entrance, even though she must have been able to see his reflection.

'What do you want me to do about the Doctor?' He asked, 'I've confined B'Elanna and Paris to quarters but,'

'Confiscate his portable emitter and take away his holo-deck time.' Her voice was forceful but husky, as though she were having trouble speaking the words. 'He can have the emitter for emergencies only, until I decide otherwise.'

'They said no, I take it?'

'They said no and could we get the hell off their Planet. The First Minister was not about to let his daughter marry one of my cast-offs apparently.'

'Ouch.' She still hadn't looked at him. 'So, what happens now?'

'Now?' She span rapidly on her heel, her spine straight, her jaw at the precise angle of someone spoiling for a fight and her eyes so devoid of emotion he wanted to shake her. 'Now we get the hell off their Planet Commander.'

The trip from the transporter room to the Bridge was undertaken in silence; he cast surreptitious looks at her every now and again, but her face was unreadable, cast in shadows. And it didn't take very much imagination to realise that this was not the time to try and talk about where all of this left them, or even to try to pull her out of the fit of self-censure she was about to fall into. He could bide his time for a little longer.

The lift doors opened and Kathryn Janeway stepped onto the Bridge, every inch a Starfleet Captain. 'Mr Tuvok, have all personnel returned from the Planet?'

'Yes Captain.'

'Ensign Jacobs, set course for the Alpha Quadrant - warp 6.' She paused for a moment, looking at the Planet on the viewscreen. Another way home lost. Then she turned away and straightened her shoulders. 'Engage.'

TBC