by Jinny W
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Voyager and all its passengers. No one else - especially not me - makes profit out of these sorts of shenanigans.
Summary: Janeway has been hanging onto something she should have thrown away a long time ago (that's apart from her dogged insistence on protocol).
At the moment I appear to be addicted to conversation and horseplay. Oh well. I could call this a vignette, or just admit that I seem to have left my ability to write anything with a clear point somewhere on a sunny sandy beach in South Australia. So this is just a piece o' fluff I beat out on my old typewriter while waiting for my computer to be fixed. (Which it still isn't... don't even ask how I'm doing this now).
It took all of Chakotay's self control not to leap agitatedly from foot to foot. He counted to twenty silently, recited as many versus old songs that he could remember, then counted again. Finally when he could no longer bear to stand still he started to pace across the room.
"If that pacing is a hint," came Kathryn's voice from somewhere within her bedroom, "I'm almost ready."
"Almost ready," Chakotay muttered under his breath. "You've been almost ready for the past fifteen minutes."
At that Kathryn's head appeared in the doorway. "Did you just say something?"
"No," he lied. "I'm just enthused about this, that's all."
She nodded. "In other words, you want me to hurry the hell up."
He couldn't help returning her smile despite his impatience. "Something like that," he admitted, "but I wouldn't have said it quite that way."
"No," said Kathryn, disappearing again, "Being that rude to your captain is probably a court martial-able offence."
Chakotay smiled again at her tongue-twisting turn of phrase. "This planet appears to have the most extraordinary geological formations," he continued, "According to Seven's scans it has almost twice as many times the ecological variety of earth itself. Can you imagine that?"
"Can't say I can," Kathryn's voice floated out again from inside her room. "But we'll see it soon enough."
Before Chakotay could utter another snide remark to the contrary she emerged from her sleeping quarters, bulging satchel in hand.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting. I just had something I wanted to bring, and I couldn't remember where I put it. I only had the thing last night."
"The thing?" Chakotay said frowning. "What thing?"
She smiled enigmatically. "Never mind." As she led the way towards the door she added, "Anyway, waiting is the privilege you get for walking your Captain from her quarters."
"I was in the neighbourhood," he said, following her out through the doorway. "But if you don't mind me asking, why are you coming on this mission?"
"Captain's prerogative," she said mildly.
"You like that saying, don't you?" he accused.
"Of course." She smiled. "I'm the Captain."
"That's a circular argument."
Kathryn shrugged as they both stepped into the turbolift. "I'm allowed. I'm-"
"- the Captain," Chakotay chorused with her.
"I can't lose," she said, slinging the bag strap over her shoulder.
"Then I won't argue with you. Or be rude to you," he said.
Kathryn grinned at him broadly. "I've taught you well. Transporter room one," she instructed the computer.
"I've ordered the search groups to work in a standard pattern. They'll let us know if they find anything interesting," Chakotay reported.
"Uh huh," Kathryn said absent mindedly, not looking up from the device in her hand.
"I can't believe this place is so barren," he remarked, glancing at the rugged brown landscape around them. "It looks nothing like the scans we took from the ship. This area should be thriving with vegetation."
"Mmm," Kathryn said, biting her bottom lip.
"In fact," Chakotay continued, eyeing her carefully, "I thought that it looks so good that I might bring my bed down from Voyager and spend the night here."
His captain nodded. "Is that so?" she said.
"And you could join me if you like."
"Kathryn." Chakotay put his hands on his hips, unconsciously mimicking one of her own familiar gestures. "You're not listening to me."
"Hmm?" Kathryn lifted her head as if noticing him for the first time. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I was propositioning you," he replied. "But before that, nothing important." He peered at the instrument in her hand. "The question is, what have you found that's so fascinating?"
"I was just trying to get this tricorder to work," she said with a sigh.
"Is it malfunctioning?" he asked, moving towards her for a closer look.
She shook her head. "No. It isn't working."
Chakotay eyed her in bemusement. "It's not working, but it's not malfunctioning?"
Kathryn shrugged. "It never worked actually."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I assume it did work once upon a time. But not for as long as I can remember."
"I see," said Chakotay, who really didn't.
Kathryn glanced up and caught his perplexed expression. "It's an old tricorder," she explained. "It's at least thirty-something years old. That's how long I've had it. And it didn't work when I first found it either, so I guess it's a fair amount older than that."
"Which begs the question," Chakotay said slowly, trying not to sound as if he was calling his captain crazy, "why you kept it. And why you brought it along today."
"Why I brought it along today is the easier part," she said, "That's because I was fiddling with the circuits last night, and I wanted the chance to test if I'd got it working."
"Couldn't you test it in your quarters?"
Kathryn ignored the incredulous tone in his voice. "It read my life signs last night. So I thought I'd give it a real field test," she said, staring off into the distance. "I guess I didn't do enough fiddling". She fell silent then, her eyes riveted on the horizon.
Chakotay followed her line of sight but saw nothing of interest.
"Kathryn," he said softly, "A penny for your thoughts."
She turned her eyes to him, seemingly reluctant to draw herself back to the present. "You'll think it's silly," she said eventually.
"How do you know that?"
She shrugged. "Easy. Because it is silly."
Chakotay grinned at that. "Then why not share it?"
Kathryn sighed. "Alright. But no laughing. This," she said, holding up the old instrument, "was the tricorder I used to take with me when I was very young and pretending to be a scientist off on a terribly important research mission. I hadn't thought much about command then. I just wanted to be out somewhere, unearthing new discoveries, putting together the pieces of a puzzle."
"With a broken tricorder?"
Kathryn shrugged again. "I had one that worked too. But this one was much more intriguing to me back then. It was part of a puzzle itself. I found it out in the middle of nowhere one day, when I was off exploring some place I wasn't supposed to be. I liked the mystery of it. Who it had belonged to before. Why they'd left it behind. Why I could never get the damned thing to work no matter how many times I pulled it apart," she finished wryly.
Chakotay chuckled. "The young Kathryn Janeway couldn't resist the challenge of fixing it."
"I never went the whole way. I could have just replaced all the old circuits with new ones and kept it in the old casing. But for some reason I didn't want to do it that way."
"So it has sentimental value."
Kathryn made a face. "No, not really. That's the strange thing. One time I was moving apartments I had all my stuff divided up into piles of things to take, things to leave behind. This," she said, wiggling the old tricorder in the air between them, "was most definitely on the junk pile."
"Then the removalist accidentally packed it. I have no idea how. It was there when I unpacked at my new place. I should have put it straight into the recycler but I never seemed to get around to it."
She rubbed her thumb along the edge of the device thoughtfully.
"The odd thing is," she continued, "that I've moved a lot of times since then. And every time I seem to pack this damn thing up and bring it along."
"Maybe you subconsciously do want to hang onto it," Chakotay suggested.
"But every time I unpack it I think, 'gods, not again' and intend to throw it away," she countered.
"Maybe it has a mind of its own and really likes you," Chakotay said, straight faced.
Kathryn rolled her eyes.
"Anyway," she said, "I was riffling through one of my drawers last night and I found it. And I thought - " she held the tricorder up as though she was speaking to it - " how the hell did you worm your way into my bags for this crazy badlands mission?"
Chakotay grinned at her. "I couldn't bear to be away from you, Kathryn," he said in a high pitched tone, pretending to throw his voice.
She raised her eyebrows and feigned a reply to the talking tricorder. "Is that so? Well you should know that stalking - even in the name of love - is a criminal offense."
"But you're so irresistible," Chakotay squeaked.
Kathryn began to guffaw, but broke off her laughter as she sighted a rather wild-eyed ensign standing a few paces behind Chakotay. At her altered expression he turned slowly to face the now blushing young man.
"Kimball," he said mildly, "what can I do for you?"
Kimball looked quickly from Chakotay to Kathryn and back, before choosing an inoffensive mid point of air between them to address his remarks to. "We've found the source of the false readings sir. Two kilometers in that direction," the young officer gestured in the direction from which he had come. "It's some sort of computer that's projecting the false readings up into space. It must be emitting a powerful field because our communicators wouldn't work from there."
"Why would anyone want to convince outsiders that this planet was more attractive?" the captain wondered out loud. "Less attractive I can understand, it could fool potential enemies into thinking there was nothing of value here."
"Perhaps it's a kind of museum," Chakotay suggested. "A monument to the way things used to be here."
She nodded thoughtfully, then turned to Kimball. "We'll come and check it out. Lead the way."
"Yes ma'am," he stammered, and with a last curious glance at Chakotay turned and led them towards the alien device.
"Maybe you could scan it with your trusty old tricorder," Chakotay said quietly to Kathryn as they fell in step together behind the younger crewman. "You might find something they didn't".
"Or I could just beat you over the head with it instead," she retorted.
"You wouldn't do that," he said, smiling dubiously at her, "would you?"
"No," she sighed and slipped the tricorder back into her satchel, "but sometimes it's nice to think about what might have been."
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