The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea - part 9

When Chakotay walked into the mess hall he found B'Elanna. Not that he'd been looking for her, but he'd heard strange reports about her progress around the ship, she'd been sighted actually talking to people, asking them questions, interrogating them according to some versions. He'd fielded a couple of complaints, but his curiousity had got the better of him. It was all most unlike her, something was definitely going on.

'So, did she let you live?' he asked sitting down across the table from her.

'Just barely, she's prolonging the punishment. You know she's taken Tom off conn duties?'

'I heard.'

'And she has me going around the ship asking people how they feel about not getting home. I'm supposed to come up with my own punishment,'

He wondered if that was because Janeway hadn't got a clue what to do with B'Elanna, or because she wanted her Chief Engineer to have some conception of what she had actually dome by interfering. It was either brilliant or disastrous, classic Janeway in fact.

'When were you planning to get to me?' He asked, determinedly interfering, certain he'd done the right thing when she was so obviously thrown by his question, 'or did you think you could answer the question without even asking me?'

'I thought, I mean, I suppose I just assumed...'

'What did you just assume?'

'That you would be disappointed of course, but perhaps not too sorry. I mean there's no one there for either of us to go back to.' He almost stopped her then, but was glad he hadn't when she continued, 'I thought you'd be relieved at not having to go through with the wedding.

'You thought I'd be relieved? You violate my privacy, embarrass me, interfere with a plan to get this ship home and you thought I'd be relieved?'

'But...'

'Who's the most private person you know B'El?'

'You,' she said quietly.

'Followed by?' She was confused for a moment, until he raised his hand to a certain height, 'this tall, blue eyes, four pips?'

'The Captain.'

'And you took our most private moment, a moment when we came close to admitting our true feelings and broadcast it to a group of senior officers and complete strangers. Congratulations, for someone who's supposed to be my friend I'm not sure you could have done anything more hurtful if you'd tried. Do you really think I'm just going to forget about this?'

'But you were going to marry someone else. How would that have effected your relationship?'

'It would have ended it probably, but it was our business. We were saying goodbye, acknowledging that duty and the situation had beaten us.'

Did she understand or not. It mattered so much that she did, but he was half afraid that she never would; not completely sure he understood himself what they had done.

'But Chakotay, it's wrong to sacrifice your feelings, a relationship.'

That was harder to respond to, since on one level he agreed with her. Did Kathryn feel this way too? Torn? Or was it just him?

'Anything we sacrificed would have been to get the crew home, which we've been trying to do for years. If one of us had died, it would have been sad, tragic even, but not wrong. We have a responsibility to this crew, to get them home.'

It seemed strange to be saying something that was so close to Janeway's credo. He wondered why he'd never spoken the words with this fervour before. Had he really not been as committed as she was, or had he just never had the opportunity to test the fact?

'You interfered B'Elanna, you broke protocol and I'm sure there's a way of throwing insubordination in there as well. I hope you come up with a fitting punishment for yourself I really do. And, incidentally, has Kathryn Janeway fallen into my arms? Has she admitted that it was all a horrible mistake and she's been in love with me for years? No, she hasn't and she won't because right now she's blaming herself for messing this up, for failing to get the crew home again. And while we're piling up the guilt here shall I point out that you're part of the reason she feels that way?'

Her face fell and he was momentarily guilty for being so, vicious. 'Chakotay I was trying to help, really I was, I'm so sorry. I thought you were unhappy, I thought she'd coerced you into the wedding, I thought you were ruining your life. I know if it was me you wouldn't let that happen. I had to do something.

Coerced, well that was an interesting point. Not something he was prepared to acknowledge here but his complicated feeling for Kathryn had certainly influenced his decision. He had wanted to make her jealous, provoke her, show her he didn't care and to get over her. Well, he'd done exceptionally well there then. Glancing at B'Elanna's expression of misery his heart softened a little.

'Come on B'El, you're still Chief Engineer and I understand that you were acting because you cared about me. I just don't think you thought things through enough.'

'What shall I tell Janeway?'

'Sorry, I can't help you with that one, but I'd sleep on it if I were you.'

As she fell deep into thought he touched her hand briefly and slipped away. Like it or not it was time to talk to Kathryn Janeway.

TBC