The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea - part 3

B'Elanna Torres was definitely not in the mood for a wedding. Her hardly veiled hostility had sent all the Mulbari engineers running for cover and if her companion had not been a former Borg, she would surely have been distracted by the constant stream of Klingon obscenities, not to mention the thumps and bangs the delicately calibrated system was enduring.

Eventually, inevitably, curiosity got the better of Seven and she approached her colleague with something that might have been caution.

'Lt. Torres, it is clear that you are unhappy about something, do you wish to discuss it?'

'Is this another attempt by the Doctor to teach you how to interact with the rest of us Seven, because if it is, this is not a good time to practice.' Unfortunately, sarcasm was still lost of Seven, undaunted she observed,

'You are unhappy about Commander Chakotay's wedding. Don't you want to return to the Alpha Quadrant?'

'Of course I do, just not like this.'

'It was the Commander's decision to precede. The Mulbari appear to have developed an efficient method of arranging personal relationships.'

'Arranged marriages, using people to secure a negotiation is not an efficient way of doing anything!' Volume had never been a good way of winning an argument with Seven, and it wasn't working now.

'Nevertheless, many cultures have used a similar approach successfully for several generations.'

The problem was, B'Elanna could see why Seven found the idea so appealing, which was precisely why this whole situation was predestined to end in disaster. Not understanding the complexities of human emotions, she probably thought this agreement was a good idea, she probably thought there was no reason why a marriage formed in this way should not succeed. B'Elanna did not share her optimism.

'Seven, I accept, for some cultures, in some circumstances, arranged marriages probably work very well. But we're talking about us, here and now and we're talking about Chakotay, someone I've known for years. I can't say, I won't say that I approve of the idea of him marrying a complete stranger just so that we can use this device and get home.'

'Your disapproval - is it based on the idea that the Commander might be in love with Captain Janeway?'

It was probably fortunate for everyone that Tom Paris walked into the room at that moment. 'Hi B'El, hi Seven!' When there was no response from either of them, too busy glaring at each other to really notice his presence, he muttered, 'good atmosphere,' before gesturing to the equipment they had been investigating and asking, 'so, does it do what they say it will?'

The question distracted Seven enough for her to reply, 'I believe it does transport items in the way the Mulbari described.' B'Elanna barely managed to nod in agreement and it didn't take a genius to work out that she wasn't exactly thrilled by this. Tom Paris wasn't a genius, but he was the person who had witnessed most of her anger over the last two days, so it was fair to say he knew pretty much how she felt about this situation.

'Cheer up B'Elanna, Chakotay may have had a change of heart after all.' This got her attention.

'What do you mean?'

'I've just spoken to Tuvok, Voyager has lost contact with the shuttle, they can't find it on their sensors.'

'Finally he's seen sense.'

'Or he's crashed another shuttle. We can't contact them, they could be in serious trouble. The Mulbari aren't pleased, they're worried the bride has been jilted.'

'She'll get over it.' Her sympathy was heart warming.

'Tuvok wants us to take the Delta Flyer out to look for them, I've got their flight plan and the last co-ordinates Voyager had for the shuttle. It looks like they came down as they entered the Planet's atmosphere.'

'Or maybe the miracle has happened and they've admitted how they feel about each other and sorted things out.' Somehow Tom thought that was probably too much to hope for.


Chakotay couldn't help thinking that in different circumstances this would be a dream come true. Kathryn Janeway was curled into his arms, head in the curve between his neck and shoulder, arm wrapped securely around his waist and she was fast asleep. He could feel her chest rising and falling against his and he wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and fall asleep too- but it wasn't going to happen. Sleep was an elusive commodity tonight.

So, instead he was lying here, thinking about if onlys and maybes and the things that hadn't been said as opposed to the words which had been spoken and could not now be called back.

There had been a difficult scene with B'Elanna, trying to convince her of something he didn't entirely believe himself had not been easy. Her anger at Kathryn had alarmed him until he realised that B'Elanna was angry because she thought the Captain was denying her own feelings for him. At the time he had been almost certain that Kathryn Janeway was no more in love with him than she was in love with Tuvok, or Neelix. Now he wasn't so sure.

Perhaps he should have pushed their earlier discussion further, perhaps he should have forced her to, but no, she had made her choice. She wouldn't, or couldn't put her feelings before the prospect of getting the crew home and, in all honesty, he didn't want a relationship to begin with the spectre of a failure like that between them. They were too late, they should have dealt with this months, if not years ago. So, as comfortable as it was to lie here holding her, he knew it was for the last time.

It wouldn't be so bad since they would be going home, he and Tanka could make a life together, go somewhere quiet, where no one really knew them and have all the time and space they needed to build a relationship together.

He remembered meeting her for the first time, both a little shy of each other. But when they'd started to talk, he'd been surprised by her, surprised how keen she was for a life away from the privilege of being a First Minister's daughter. How she'd talked of wanting to do something useful with her life; to study and find out about other cultures, other worlds - and it was that curiosity, that ardent enthusiasm that he found so attractive.

Not the most conventional of relationships perhaps, but they both knew what they were getting into, both knew that the odds were against them. He'd felt an unexpected burst of optimism after that initial meeting, a feeling that this could work.

'You aren't asleep.' A quiet voice observed, as the Captain of Voyager propped herself up on one elbow and looked down at him.

'I know, a touch of insomnia.'

'Have I given you nightmares?' she asked, quite seriously.

'Not really, just a lot to think about.' She nodded, as if she might, just understand and did not offer him any trite words of encouragement or condolence. But that was the problem, he realised bitterly, Kathryn Janeway could effect him simply by not doing or saying something in a way no other woman he'd ever met could. It was as if his consciousness was a taut string, permanently connected to her, and although he had been momentarily convinced, he didn't really believe he could ever be happy without her.