The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea - part 5
Kathryn Janeway splashed cold water on her face and then looked at herself in the bedroom mirror. Rather as she'd expected there had been no change - her eyes still had dark circles under them, the lines of a frown still etched across her features. When they got home it wasn't going to be difficult to see what this journey had cost her.
When they got home...she couldn't think about it, they'd been here before and something had always gone wrong. It didn't make it any easier now that their fates rested in Chakotay's hands; that whole, complicated situation only led to her desire not to think about it, denial was easier.
As far as she knew he hadn't changed his mind, although she supposed he'd hardly chose to confide in her if he had. Not until the very last moment anyway. Last night had left them both emotionally raw, but had concluded nothing; almost as if they had been compelled to pick over old wounds without reaching any conclusion. Or had that been her fault as well? Probably.
He had said little after his declaration that they were damned, merely pulling her into his embrace and keeping her there. He'd held her in his arms all night and she had been content, more than content to remain there, as long as she didn't think about the future, or what any of this meant. But she had no idea what he had been thinking about, whether he had been prompted by desire or despair.
If she closed her eyes and concentrated, she could remember how it felt to wake up in his arms. The sound of his heartbeat, the solid feel of his body and most of all the way her body had tricked her with a surge of happiness and desire before she had woken up properly and realised where they were.
The tension that remained between them was easier not to remember, the way the Ready Room had suddenly felt too small a space when they were alone in it. The habit her mind had suddenly developed of slipping if topic when he got too close to her, all of these were simply failures of her control. She had to do better, she would do better.
At least she wasn't going to have to live in close proximity with Chakotay and his new wife. Starfleet command would keep her locked away while they debriefed her and if all went well they'd turn a blind eye to some of her more dubious actions over the years and suggest she spend some time relaxing and visiting her family. Advice she would take, of course, being a dutiful Starfleet Captain and then she would use all the muscle she had to get herself put on a long term, deep space mission, because after all scientific exploration was not the same as running away.
If any of that came to pass it would be because Chakotay was married to someone else, because she had allowed it to happen, sacrificed something she wanted for herself in order to get the crew home.
It was acceptable to admit this in the solitude of her quarters, although the memory of how close she'd come to revealing this to Chakotay was not one she cared to relive; he had always read her too well.
He had always done everything around her too well, challenged her ideas when she wanted to be right first time, made her life when she wanted to be miserable, cared about her when she wanted to cut herself off. Damn but it wasn't fair! Under any other circumstances she'd ...but life wasn't fair, she reminded herself and the choice had not just been hers. Neither of them had stopped this. Neither of them would now they had gone this far, too stubborn and angry to admit they might have been wrong.
And tomorrow they could be home. The wedding was arranged for first thing in the morning, it should have taken place already, but their shuttle accident had intervened. Almost as if fate had been trying to prevent them making a terrible mistake. Well, fate had not promised to get this crew home come hell or high water.
Chakotay had not batted an eyelid when she'd told him of the revised arrangements, but he'd watched her, carefully. Almost as though he was looking for a sign of hesitation. She'd been expecting him, every second, to return to the conversation of the previous night, but he'd said very little, confining his remarks to telling her he would spend the evening in his quarters, meditating.
His eyes had been on her all the time and she'd caught herself imagining an invitation there. For a moment imagining them entwined again, only this time they weren't sleeping. Gods, it was madness to keep thinking about this, about him. She needed a bath and an early night, she needed a distraction, she needed something to help her fight the impulse to go to him.
Chakotay wasn't meditating, or not in the traditional sense. He was seated on the floor of his living area, gazing out of the viewport, but his thoughts were very much grounded in reality. He was thinking about Kathryn Janeway, summoning up every memory of her he could, good or bad and trying to recall every emotion she had ever provoked in him. He wasn't sure if this was a means of tantalising himself or a form of punishment, he did believe that somehow he had to succeed in banishing the intensity of those feelings, if he were ever to survive the experience of being married to someone else.
If he couldn't escape them then perhaps he could at least learn to become immune to them. But he'd fooled himself into believing she meant nothing to him before only to be faced with the travesty of that belief when something she did or said, or some fleeting expression she directed his way set his heart reeling. He wondered if she ever realised how effortlessly she could destroy his best efforts at pretence. Whatever he did when they got home it was clear there was one woman he could not afford to allow to become part of his life.
He looked up as his doorbell chimed and a slow smile crossed his face as the doors slid open and he saw his visitor.