Disclaimer: Paramount own them, I am only meddling for my own entertainment and really mean no harm - sorry.
Three hours ago she had decided that he had to come to her. She had made the offer of support, a friend to talk to, a shoulder to cry on if he wanted, but she couldn't force him to accept, no matter how much she thought he needed the catharsis. That had to be his choice.
But, she had waited, in the hopes that he might find his way to her door. Waiting had given the Captain of Voyager time to dwell on the decisions that had led to this, on the things that might have been different, she had allotted blame and accepted her share of the guilt. But in the end her introspection came to nothing, the damage was still done. She had already decided that if she had the time over again there was little she would change, certainly nothing that would alter the fate of the young woman who had gone so bravely to her death. There was nothing in her ruminations that would provide comfort to her First Officer - and heaven only knew what he was feeling at the moment.
Those last moments had been a blur of blood, mud and desperation. Her priority had been to rescue her downed away team and get the hell out of there. Perhaps she shouldn't have been so surprised to learn that in the time they had been on the Planet they had enlisted some help. But she hadn't missed the expression of fear that had crossed Chakotay's face when the young woman, Lorea, had taken a handful of companions and attempted to draw off some enemy fire, while she and B'elanna had moved the away team across the large stretch of open ground to the shuttle.
Not a suicide mission on the face of it, but Chakotay had been on the Planet for several days, knew the circumstances and the terrain better than she did, and he clearly did not think Lorea would be coming back - and he had been right.
Knowing Chakotay as she did she hadn't been surprised at the closeness she had witnessed in those few tattered moments. He had a way of drawing people to him, she was no more immune to that than those who had followed him in the Maquis, or the women who had drifted in and out of his life. Lorea and her group had been freedom fighters of a sort, people Chakotay would have had a natural empathy with. He might have found their way of doing things refreshingly direct after the rules and regulations of Voyager. She had seen the way Lorea looked at Chakotay, seen the currents of respect and attraction that had flowed between them. Then it had not been the right time to be jealous and now was even less appropriate, given that Lorea was dead but... no one was perfect.
The doorbell chimed and as she called for her visitor to enter she tried to rearrange her features into an expression she hoped was appropriate for Chakotay's mood and wished that her feelings could be reshuffled so easily.
'Chakotay.' Her scrutiny of her First Officer was careful, but discrete. He looked tired and edgy, the injuries he'd sustained during the mission had been healed, or at least the physical wounds had been. 'Can I get you a drink?' He shook his head and remained standing, looking irresolute, giving her the impression that if she said the wrong thing he might bolt.
'I didn't think you'd still be awake.' He observed at last, 'I've been sitting in the mess hall, but I didn't want my own company, but I'm not really in the mood to be entertaining.'
'I don't need to be entertained.'
'No,' he looked at her for the first time since coming in, 'no, I don't suppose you do.' He sat down heavily on the sofa beside her and said, 'Kathryn, I'm so tired, I don't know what I'm doing here?'
'Do you want to talk about it?'
'What's to say,' his bitter laugh was far more disturbing than his words.
'I'm sorry about Lorea.'
'So am I,' his face twisted into a grimace of pain and she wasn't sure what to say next, but he saved her the need to think of something by adding, 'she reminded me of myself. Head full of noble ideals, she'd argued with her parents as well, over whether or not to compromise.' He shook his head, the words running away from him, 'I don't know what I'm doing here.'
'I offered to listen if you wanted to talk, remember?' She said lightly, 'it's what friends are for.'
'Are you my friend Kathryn? Sometimes it feels as though you are my most deadly adversary.' The words forced her breath out of her lungs and her voice was shaky as she replied.
'There's been a temporary cease-fire, a truce, there won't be any fighting tonight.' She reached across and took his hand. 'I am your friend tonight.' He closed his eyes out of relief, or perhaps to hide what she might have seen there.
'But what about tomorrow?' He whispered.
Chakotay leant into the velvety softness that dwelt behind his eyelids and wished he could find it more comforting and calming. He shouldn't have come here like this, shouldn't have said all those fanciful things. Now she would be bound to ask him what he had meant when he had described them as adversaries. The long and painful discussion which would inevitably ensue was the last thing he needed tonight.
But she surprised him, as she was wont to do, asking instead. 'How did you make contact with them, Lorea and her group?' he opened his eyes, despairing of the energy the simple movement took.
'It's all in my report Captain. I wasn't expecting to have to deliver in verbatim tonight.'
'Just the salient points, Commander.' She placed a slight emphasis on his title, striking him back for using her title just a moment before. The games they played with each other, the ways they could find to hurt each other were the stuff of his late night musings, they did not sit well with her presence. His eyes drifted shut again, a surrender to the knowledge that if he kept looking at her he would remember how much he could want her.
But he scene that played out behind his eyelids was hardly a comfortable diversion. He found himself on a dusty, shell marked hillside, taking cover with the rest of the away team in a small stone building with massive holes ripped into it from the blasts of projectile weapons.
'They found us, which was probably just as well - I don't know how long we'd have held out without help. We weren't exactly in the best shape and it was clear we'd crashed in the middle of a war zone. At first they wanted to kill us, thought we were spies trying to find a way inside their compound. Without Lorea's intervention I'm sure we would have been killed, she seemed to want to believe our story, but it was a big risk. Gods she was young and scared as hell, she reminded me of myself when I first joined the Maquis, full of angry pride and a burning desire to prove wrong everyone and everything I'd ever believed in.'
That admission was too close to home, too personal. She squeezed his hand, just to remind him of her presence and he was glad he had found the strength to come to her. No one healed him the way she did.
When he was ready to begin once more he said, 'the compound was at least a days walk away and the hills were scattered with Government patrols - we couldn't risk being followed and we had wounded, so we weren't moving very quickly. We had to spend a night out in the open, set up a makeshift camp. I suppose it was then that Lorea and I talked, about who we were, how we'd got here. I told her that I was once a freedom fighter of sorts. She seemed amazed that I could even contemplate serving under someone who'd been sent to arrest me, couldn't see how I had accepted your authority so easily. I tried to explain, about the benevolent side of Starfleet, the side intent on exploration, about letting cultures develop without interference - but everything was black and white for her, the enemy was the enemy and there was nothing in between. That made me wonder how many of my comrades in arms would have acted as I did at the array.'
She couldn't deny that it was something she wondered herself, 'I've always thought that I was exceptionally fortunate to be faced with someone like you, Starfleet trained, a sound tactical mind.'
'A pragmatist rather that a zealot?' He observed scathingly, 'you may be right. But, for all that we disagreed there was an affinity between Lorea and I, one of those you can't exactly explain, a force of nature.'
'You blame yourself for her death?' It was a difficult question to answer, not least because it was a reminder that she had died, while he had been talking about her it was easier to remember her as full of life and vitality, even if that vitality was spurred on by a bitter anger.
'In some ways - she chose a dangerous existence and I had no part in that. But she didn't need to be with us, she volunteered to guide us to the rendezvous site, but, did she need to draw off the patrols' fire like that? I'm not sure that she did. I think she wanted to show me, and probably you as well, that she was a proper rebel, willing to die for her cause. The irony is, I never doubted that, not for a moment.'
She bit her lip, swallowing the clichés she might have mouthed, which he would recognise and dismiss. It was very important that she managed to say the right thing to him. Her voice was brittle when she did speak, the ultimate proof of her honesty if he choose to see it like that. 'I noticed the connection between the two of you - I was jealous of it actually, you seemed to understand each other.'
'Whereas you and I misunderstand each other, just for the sake of it? It doesn't have to be that way Kathryn. The problem with our affinity is that it's deep and personal and it transcends our professional existence. Not so much a force of nature as the pull of gravity.'
He turned his head towards her, his eyes half closed and glowing amber in the darkened room, she felt the intensity of his gaze, the danger of his presence and the temptation to meet his desire with her own was almost overwhelming - almost. 'Tell me why you think I am your most deadly adversary?'
'Kathryn,' he shook his head slightly, searching for a way to retreat, to not confront this now, when he was so tired. But her eyes were too compelling, had always been too compelling.
'Tell me,' she repeated softly, 'I won't break you know. I can stand to hear what you really think of me.'
'Perhaps it's me that I'm worried about. I think I might very easily break.' She frowned, her face twisting into a grimace that was somehow more touching than he wanted to admit.
'Because of me? Have I done this to you Chakotay?'
'You flatter yourself Captain. You've done to me only what I allowed to be done, your willing victim - as always.' The harshness escaped him without it intending to, pent up rage venting at the person closest to him.
'Do you hate me that much?'
'I don't hate you at all, that's the tragedy of this mess. I've tried, of course, I've tried to blame you, tried to be angry. I've even tried to block out how I feel about you with the touch of other women. But nothing helps and I don't like that weakness in myself.'
'Weakness? In the face of something you refer to as gravity? That's a little arrogant - isn't it? To assume that you ought to be able to withstand that?'
'You do.' He tried to tell himself that he hadn't meant it to sound like an accusation, but he'd never been a good liar, honesty meant too much to him. There was a long silence and he wondered idly if she would strike him or just throw him out. But when he looked at her, her eyes were downcast and he could tell she was struggling with an admission, a painful truth.
'For someone who can see some things with such clarity you can also be remarkably blinkered,' she announced abruptly. 'When you stood in the conference room with Riley Frazier, I knew you'd been lovers. I knew the second I saw you, not her, you. And I wanted to kill her. I know about Kellin as well. Tuvok told me,' she added in response to the question he was too startled to ask. 'When I read his report I didn't want to believe it, there was no other evidence after all, it would have been very easy to forget; as we were meant to. I couldn't help but wish that he hadn't had the ingenuity to replicate paper. Some nights, I want you so badly I can't sleep. I punish myself for that, for not having the nerve to come and tell you, so I don't deal with my arousal, don't allow myself the release I need. Do you find this interesting Chakotay - it's quite a picture of myself that I'm painting for you? I saw you with Lorea and I was jealous, she was young, free to determine her own fate. She didn't have dark circles under her eyes, wasn't consumed by guilt and obsession. In about sixty seconds I had constructed an elaborate scenario, your future. She was going to come back to Voyager with us, join the crew, fall in love with you. You'll be pleased to know you both lived happily ever after. I'd thought it all out while I was carrying Lt. Crosby to the shuttle, I could even see myself being studiously polite to you both at social gatherings. By the time I came back for the others...'
'Lorea was dead,' he pointed out a little unnecessarily. They made quite a pair he thought, no longer surprised at their failure to find a way to deal with such a complex and multi-layered relationship. 'Why did you come down to the Planet in the first place Kathryn? You could have, probably should have, sent Tuvok.'
'Well,' she looked away from him, frowning a little, 'there I go again, some risks are easier to take than others. Running around under enemy fire isn't a problem. Dealing with my emotions, confronting how I feel about you, I don't know if I'm brave enough to do that.'
'You're the bravest person I've ever met.' It was easy to fill the words with meaning since it was true, her courage and convictions had carried them this far, would carry them further still, perhaps even all the way home.'
'And also the biggest coward,' she smiled self-deprecatingly, 'the situation is just replete with irony, isn't it Chakotay?'
'You always appear to have all the answers.'
'I've never had all the answers, not when it comes to you.' She untangled her hand from his and for a moment he thought she would pull away, but instead her fingers stroked softly over his cheek. With uncharacteristic intensity she said, 'you are my greatest weakness, my one indulgence.'
'Your only vice?' He queried gently, 'I think you've forgotten about coffee.'
Her eyes glittered with laughter,
'I never forget about coffee!' The almost comfortable moment slipped away from them when she asked, 'why did you come here Chakotay?'
'I was under the impression that I had been invited.'
'It took you almost four hours to get here, hardly a prompt response. I was sure you weren't going to make an appearance. It's not so unreasonable a question, why are you here?'
That was a question he probably shouldn't even attempt to answer, yet tonight did seem to be a night for truths, no matter how unpleasant. He wasn't even sure that he could answer her, uncertain how to put into words the act of faith which had carried him to her door. 'I suppose I'm here because I hoped you'd be able to make me feel better. You're my miracle cure you know, a salve for my wounded and weary soul. I still believe in you.'
Those last five words penetrated the defences she surrounded herself with and, for a moment, a single, uncomfortable moment, she actually feared she would cry. Instead she took refuge in humour, a familiar defence she was certain her companion could see through. 'Oh Chakotay, it's probably a good job one of us does.'
'Don't laugh at me Kathryn.'
'I would never do that, at our situation perhaps, but never at you.' He closed his eyes and turned his head so that he could press a kiss onto her palm. 'What are we going to do?' She breathed.
'Stop hurting one another, be honest about how we feel, and,' he paused, she might not want to hear what he had to say, 'accept the consequences.'
Panic fluttered through her, a hundred command and tactical considerations competing for her attention and silenced by one look at Chakotay's face - the expression in his eyes. 'Why is it you always seem to believe I'll do the right thing, in the end?' She enquired with a burst of mock outrage.
'Because I know you have me around to convince you, should your judgement falter.'
'That's how you see your role, is it?'
'Oh definitely - aside from all the technical stuff, it's my job to tell you when you're wrong - and you're wrong about us Kathryn.' Her fingers moved gently over his face until she pressed a gentle kiss onto his cheek.
'We have to stop this.'
'I know that as well.'
'Has anyone ever told you what a complete know it all you are, Miss Janeway?'
'Quite a few people actually.' They were being flippant, silly, a total change in direction from the weighty discussion they had emerged from just a few moments before. He smiled and that was the moment she decided she was going to kiss him, she leaned towards his lips, but he drew away.
'What about our cease-fire?' He whispered,
'Over, we've breached the conditions, I don't want to just be friends anymore.'