Rating : PG-13
Disclaimer : Paramount owns the names, but the story is mine, OK?
Author's Note : I’m dedicating this story to Margie, who knows how to make a sad, lost JCer smile again. Thanks Margie.
“Ah, Commander! Welcome to Shangri La in a Cargo Bay! Just hop right in and make yourself comfortable.”
Chakotay watched as the Doctor fussed around with his latest hobby : a set of ten gleaming black stasis chambers.
“Well, don’t just stand there Commander… you’re just moments away from a month of uninterrupted, quality sleep, courtesy of EMH travels. You know the motto, We Won’t Rest ‘til You Do.”
“Doctor...,” Chakotay began.
“Don’t tell me!” Voyager’s EMH held up his hand as he interrupted the Commander. “No need to explain, I can see that you’re experiencing last minute nerves, or what Mr Paris persists in referring to as ‘the jitters’. Now come over here.”
Taking Chakotay’s arm he dragged the reluctant officer towards the first chamber.
“See, absolutely nothing to worry about. Each of these beauties has been checked and double-checked by myself, and by Lieutenant Torres. And, naturally, there are many new system failsafes I myself devised to ensure that any crew members in stasis will be revived in the event of an emergency.”
Running his fingertips across the sleek black box, Chakotay cleared his throat and looked up into the Doctor’s attempt at a reassuring smile. “Such as?”
“I’m glad you asked….”
This time it was Chakotay who interrupted. “Short version please.”
“Hmmm.” The Doctor’s slightly peeved expression was a good deal more convincing than his last one. “Well, let me see then…. Let’s just say that if a specific set of codes are not entered into these keypads every four hours, the occupants of each and every stasis chamber will be automatically revived.”
“Can you tell me what happens if Voyager is destroyed?”
“Why certainly Commander. If Voyager is attacked and destroyed whilst you are in stasis you will be none the wiser. It will be a quick and painless death.”
Chakotay nodded, but refrained from responding. He had known what he was letting himself in for when he volunteered for this ‘assignment’. The Doctor had raised the possibility of placing a number of Voyager’s crew into stasis during a recent team meeting. This would save on resources and also serve to prolong the lifespan of the crew. Just why Chakotay had felt the need to put his hand up when the Captain had asked for volunteers, he couldn’t say. Perhaps it was because he hated the idea so much. Or maybe he was running away from something. Maybe a month in a stasis chamber was a month away from … from what exactly?
“Doctor, I came here early so that I could take some time to get used to the idea of being out of it for an entire month. I’ll level with you. This isn’t easy for me. Do you think you could you give me some time alone?”
The Doctor’s expression softened as he took note of the Commander’s defensive posture. He nodded and gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder. “Of course. We’re not scheduled to start here for at least another half-hour. Take all the time you need. And Commander, I’m not going to let anything happen to you. You’re in good hands, I promise.”
Chakotay watched him leave and then turned to face his very own personal black coffin. Get a grip, he scolded himself. They’re not coffins, just stasis chambers. You’ve been in them before. You get in, close your eyes, and the next thing you know, you’re awake and the month’s gone. Easy. Easy. He took off his boots, removed his comm badge and climbed in before his overactive imagination could stop him. Stretching out to his full length he looked up at the ceiling. These things were a lot smaller on the inside than they were on the outside. On the inside they were downright claustrophobic. Of course, they were not designed for anything but stasis, and once in stasis, comfort was an irrelevance.
He sat up and reached for the lid, pulling it closed over him until he felt the slight hiss of the vacuum seal. There was enough air in there to last him an hour or so, he knew. Chakotay took a deep breath, closed his eyes and tried to relax. He knew of any number of different ways to do this, but none of them were working. His brain was too active, his thoughts too chaotic. Why had he volunteered for this? What had he been thinking of?
Kathryn, of course. Firstly, she had asked for volunteers and her wish was his command. Always had been. Secondly, he was interested in how she would react to a month without him. Would it make a difference? Thirdly, he had an aversion to stasis chambers and he responded the way he did to all his fears (bar one), he met it head-on. And lastly, because he just didn’t care any more. He didn’t care to be constantly on guard against himself, constantly holding back his feelings, watching his words, controlling his gestures and his desires. A month out of his life was no great loss. What would he be missing out on? Chakotay had no great fondness for reports and rosters. Kathryn would barely notice the loss of their weekly dinner or the occasional game of Velocity. If he were needed he would be revived. If he was needed. He had a grim suspicion that he wasn’t needed, not at all.
The gentle whirr of the Cargo Bay doors alerted him to a new arrival. Chakotay wasn’t really interested in who would be joining him in stasis. He knew it wouldn’t be any other members of the bridge crew. They had all agreed that it would be for the best if only one of them was out of action at any given time. The cowards.
“Ah, damn it!” He was startled and confused by the voice of Kathryn Janeway. He lay still, wondering what was going on.
“Chakotay… you weren’t due for stasis for…damn it…I thought I had time!” He could hear the Captain pacing. She sounded agitated. Best to lie still and wait for her to leave.
“Damn you for a coward, Commander!” Chakotay could hear her smile, so he wasn’t offended by her curses. “And damn you,” she continued, warming to her theme, “damn you for not having more than one name. What I really need is to be able to say listen here William Alexander Chakotay in that kind of a voice. Is that why I can never stay angry with you? How are you supposed to verbally abuse someone with only one name? Kes was a lot smarter than she looked, and Neelix, and then there’s Tuvok…wait a minute! Am I the only one who hasn’t caught on to this scheme yet? Or maybe everyone else is a little short in the old imagination department….Hmmmm.”
Chakotay could hear her stop to pull up a chair.
“Now I’m rambling. You know how I hate it when I ramble. It’s lack of caffeine that causes it. Do they do coffee in the cargo bays? Nevermind. It can wait.
“I hope you’re feeling comfortable, lying there in your snug new bed, you big rat. I could have screamed when you volunteered for stasis. I didn’t mean you to volunteer, you dolt! I meant someone I wasn’t going to miss. Like Harry or Tuvok or Tom or OK, OK, …just about anyone else. What on Earth were you thinking? I thought you didn’t like stasis chambers?”
The Captain’s voice sounded muffled as though she were rubbing her face as she spoke. “Oh, god Chakotay. An entire month of sitting next to Tuvok. I love him dearly, of course but … you know, it’s started already. Just now on the bridge I leaned over with a dopey grin on my face, about to make some wise crack about mating behaviour and nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw Tuvok looking back at me from your chair. Paris saw the whole thing from out the back of his head as usual. He turned around and gave me the biggest grin. Archetypal Paris.
“And who do you suppose is going to share their replicator rations with me? What happens when I can’t afford my coffee any more? Who’s going to shout me? Not that sermonising little Talaxian and his abominable coffee substitution racket, that’s for sure. Oh … I can already feel a headache coming on. The worst part is, I was going to pinch your entire month’s rations whilst you slept but Tuvok was on to me and locked me out. Can you believe it? People can steal shuttles out from under his nose and he can’t do a thing about it, but I try to borrow a couple of rations from a good friend who won’t be needing them and wham, the Vulcan hand of justice descends!
“By the time this month’s over I can see myself breaking out the compression phaser rifles and staging a one-woman coffee-bean rebellion. I really do need that cuppa now Chakotay. With you gone I’m going to need twice as much coffee just to survive. Oh, damn you!”
Chakotay wondered if she would be leaving now that she had cursed him sufficiently but he couldn’t hear any signs of movement. He got the uncomfortable impression that he was being studied. He stayed still and resisted the impulse to smile. He loved it when she cursed. Janeway was adorable when she was feeling sorry for herself. And he was glad that she was going to miss him, very glad. It seemed that Kathryn Janeway liked a captive audience - one that didn’t talk back. And Chakotay had no intention of interrupting her monologue. He was enjoying every minute of it.
“Well, since we’re alone and you can’t hear me, I suppose it’s safe to say this … you sure are easy on the eyes, Commander. Am I glad you can’t hear me! You’d never let me hear the end of it. Even so, you are the most beautiful man I’ve ever met. Of course if anyone were to accuse me of these thoughts I’d deny them ‘til the cows come home, or the cock crows thrice or whatever the Biblical reference is. Where was I? Oh yes, shamelessly admiring my first officer. Well then, your smile makes the sun rise inside of me. And the day doesn’t start for me until I get to see those dimples. I’m going to miss you like hell. I’ll miss your totally insane sense of humour, and our equally insane after dinner conversation. I know it’s only a month, not a life sentence. But what if it were, Chakotay? What if this was your coffin lying here, and me left to say my final farewells before shooting you off into space? Think of that. Never to have you by my side again.”
“What a morbid thought. I’m scaring myself half to death here. Phew, it’s almost too awful to consider. Do you remember that alien entity that tried to get me to die and cross over to another dimension with him? With him in my brain I was able to witness my own death many, many times. The Doctor actually euthanased me at one stage. I’ve never looked at the Doctor the same way since, let me tell you! But the worst of it was watching you trying to save me, seeing your reaction as I died in your arms. So much pain. Did it really happen that way do you suppose? Or was that just what I wanted to see? What I expected to see? I suppose I’ll never know. There’s one thing I do know though, and that is, if it were you lying there, dying in my arms, then I would have done the exact same thing. I would have cried and begged and fought for every breath I had left with you.
“Oh my! Looks like I’ve let the cat out of the bag. Is it a criminal offence to harbour feelings for your XO do you suppose? Must be, everything else I’m attracted to seems to be dangerous, fattening, toxic or against Starfleet regulations. Look at me, would you? Sitting in an empty cargo bay pouring out my heart to a loaded stasis chamber. Who said romance was dead? Anyway, even if you were awake, and even if I did somehow get up the courage to let you know how I feel it would probably be a case of too little too late. Oh, there have been times when I thought I caught a spark of something in your eyes; times when you would look at me that certain way, the way you did that time you caught me outside wearing nothing but a towel and a hair clip. If only I had some sign from you, Chakotay. If only I could know for sure that I wasn’t reading more into the situation than is actually there. It would have to be something specific, a sign even a disbelieving scientist like me might stand up and take note of. Otherwise, I’m afraid that it wouldn’t be worth upsetting the status quo for.
Chakotay silently contemplated the possibility of such a sign.
“Do you believe in miracles, Chakotay? If you do then listen up. I, Kathryn Janeway, do hereby swear that if I were to receive a clear and unequivocal sign that my good friend Commander Chakotay were to return my feelings for him, then I would somehow find the courage necessary to let him know how I feel. That sounded a wee bit pompous, didn’t it? I get that from my father. Pompous is parr for the course when you’re a Starfleet Admiral. That’s a golfing term, by the way. Or did you know that already? I’ll be going now, Commander, before I make an even bigger fool of myself and throw myself at your stasis chamber and start gibbering on about soul mates. Good-night.
“Picard manoeuvre,” she announced as she stood and straightened her uniform. The bays doors hissed closed behind her and Chakotay slowly opened his eyes and smiled.
When Tom Paris arrived to prepare the remaining units Chakotay was jumping out of his chamber and stretching his legs. “Er, I hate to tell you this Commander, but it’s not even been an hour yet.” He caught Chakotay’s wink and grinned back at him. “So, Chakotay, what’s up?”
“Just need to send off a message before I go under. That OK with you Paris?”
“Yeah, go for your life. Do you want some privacy?”
“No thanks, Tom.”
Chakotay padded over to a monitor and pressed a few buttons. “Computer, record a visual message for Captain Kathryn Janeway, and transmit to her quarters at 22:30 hours tonight.” He waited for the computer’s response and then began the recording.
“Hello Kathryn,” he was trying to keep a straight face but he just couldn’t stop the smile from breaking through. “Sorry I didn’t get to say good-bye to you earlier.” He pursed his lips, scratched his ear and then grinned some more. “Two things ; Yes, I do believe in miracles and no, it’s never too late to tell someone that you care for them.”
There was the sound of something clattering to the floor behind him.
Chakotay turned away. “You OK Paris? …He’s fine. So what I’m
saying is, if there is anything you need to tell me Kathryn, go right ahead
…knock yourself out. That’s a boxing term. And I’ve transferred
my rations to your account although I think that’s probably defeating the
purpose of putting me in stasis in the first place. I can’t help
thinking that it would be better for everyone if you don’t go without your
coffee fix for too long. So this is good-bye. I’ll see you
next month.” He turned away again. “Better put that down for
a minute, Tom.” He faced the screen and grinned like a mad
thing. “I love you, Kathryn. Chakotay out.”
On to part two
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