Disclaimer: All the universe belongs to Paramount and I don’t even care.
Second Place in the Fight contest
Voyager had spent a week trapped in the clutches of chaotic space, where the laws of physics were in flux and the shear forces threatened to destroy her. With sensors inoperable, they had no way to chart a course back to normal space. Chakotay’s apparent hallucinations, although distressing, had proved to be an alien form of communication and in the end their salvation. It had been a long and stressful experience, but finally they had broken free. Once this briefing was finished they could all get some much-needed rest.
It was very late; it had been a long, difficult day and everyone was exhausted. The Captain was anxious to return to sickbay. She needed to see first hand that her First Officer had suffered no lasting effects from his bout with the aliens. But as the rest of the staff finally filed out of the briefing room, Lieutenant Torres stayed behind.
“Lieutenant, is there a problem?” The Captain took a few steps toward her solemn looking Chief Engineer. The look she received almost made her cringe. Kathryn had seen that same look earlier in the week when she had run into B’Elanna just outside of sickbay. The last thing she needed to deal with now was an enraged Klingon.
“Yes, Captain, I believe there is.” B’Elanna crossed her arms over her chest, her eyes locked defiantly with the Captain’s as she approached.
“Is there something you would like to say to me, Lieutenant?” The Captain stopped just short of her Chief Engineer; grateful at this moment that B’Elanna was one of the few people on the ship she could look directly in the eye without having to tilt her head. “You have been staring at me throughout the briefing; there is obviously something on your mind.”
“Yes, Captain, there is and I may be out of line here but …” B’Elanna stopped and eyed the Captain. It was a hostile look but one that seemed to weigh the consequences of what she was about to say.
“B’Elanna, please speak freely.” Kathryn knew whatever it was wouldn’t be pretty but if they didn’t deal with it now it would only fester and become a larger problem in the future.
“OK, if you really want to know. I saw what you did in sickbay.”
“Yes, I remember seeing you there.” Kathryn had been in sickbay several times throughout this ordeal, she wasn’t sure yet which time B’Elanna referred to.
“I heard what you said to him.” B’Elanna’s anger boiled just beneath the surface. “I wasn’t eavesdropping, but I was close enough to hear what you said to him.”
“I assume you mean Chakotay?” Kathryn tried to keep her voice even as she watched the anger well up in the younger woman’s eyes.
“Of course I mean Chakotay. How could you?” B’Elanna dropped her arms to her sides and clenched her fists. “It's one thing if you don’t love him. I understand that you can’t make yourself love some one, even if you want to. But it's quite another to use his love for you to manipulate him like that!
“Is that what you think happened in there, that I used him?” Kathryn was stunned by this assessment. She never considered how this might have looked to someone else.
“Yes, that's exactly what I think! You used his feelings for you to manipulate him. When you asked him to contact the aliens - 'I need you to keep trying, Chakotay.' You knew he would do it, no matter what it cost him- he would do anything for you.”
“You believe I was wrong to have Chakotay reestablish contact the aliens? We were trapped; it was the only way out.” Kathryn attempted to steer the conversation away in a more professional direction.
“I understand the necessity of what you asked. But you're the captain, you could have ordered him to do it. As his friend, you could have simply asked him and he would have done it.” B’Elanna shook as she tried to rein in her temper and struggled to hold back her tears. “Hell, that man would walk into the fires of Gre'thor for you and you wouldn't even have to ask! How could you do this to him?”
“B’Elanna, I understand your concern for your friend, but I did what I felt was necessary for the safety of this crew.”
“No!” B’Elanna took a gulp of air, trying gain control and lowered her voice. “Asking him, even ordering him, that might have been for the good of ship!” B’Elanna’s voice took on a deep menacing growl. “But sliding your hands over his chest and leaning into him, bringing you lips only inches from his, and when he agreed, when you got what you wanted – you just straightened up and walked away! That was cold hearted manipulation!”
“I’m sorry, Lieutenant, but I wasn’t aware that I needed to seek your approval to do my job.” Kathryn pulled the captain’s mask tightly into place to cover her own wavering emotions.
“Your job! That’s all he is to you, just part of the job! No, you’re not sorry. You exploited his emotions for your own purposes yet again and you are not one damn bit sorry!” B’Elanna’s voice was louder and the bursts of hot breath hit Kathryn’s face as she spoke; neither moved.
“I have a responsibility here, 150 people to worry about…”
“I don’t understand how he could still love such a stone hearted manipulative bitch!” B’Elanna glared at the older woman, a violent struggle visible behind her blazing eyes and clenched fists. Finally, she pushed past the Captain and stalked toward the door.
“B’Elanna, one more question, - if you don't mind.” Kathryn didn’t turn around, she watched B’Elanna’s reflection in the view port as the younger woman stopped and straightened her shoulders.
"Yes, Captain?" B’Elanna hissed through clenched teeth without turning back.
"What makes you'd think I don't love him?”
B’Elanna turned and studied her Captain. Kathryn was facing the view port, her back ramrod straight, her arms hung loosely at her sides. Their eyes met in the view port. Was it the passing stars or were there tears in the Captain’s eyes. B’Elanna stepped forward to take a better look, but the big hand on her shoulder stopped her movement.
“I think you better go.” Chakotay spoke softly but his eyes blazed with anger.
“Chak! Are you OK?”
“Yes, I’m fine.” He turned B’Elanna to face him. “I think you should leave.”
“I just want to say…”
“You have said more than enough already.” When B’Elanna looked up uncertainly he continued. “I heard your–discussion-with the Captain. The whole bridge heard you.”
“She had no right..”
“She has every right. She is the Captain. All of our lives are in her hands. You have no right to second-guess her. We’re alive because she made me see what had to be done.”
“I know she’s the Captain.” B’Elanna lowered her voice when he glared at her. “It doesn’t give her the right to use you!”
“B’Ella, I gave Kathryn those rights years ago.” He gently moved B’Elanna toward the door.
“Chak, I hate the way she uses you! Not just today…”
“I know your intentions are good and it’s my best interest you’re concerned with.” Chakotay paused, his anger subsiding with the deep concern on his friend’s face. “But you don’t know how the weight of every decision that rests on those slender shoulders, you don’t know the tremendous burden of 150 lives, the strain of being responsible for it- all day every day, year after year. Anything I can do to lighten that load, I will- no matter what it looks like to you.”
“I know you want to help her, but the way she treats you sometimes…”
“You don’t understand. She's not prefect but she's damn good and we are all lucky to have her. Now, please.” Chakotay waved B’Elanna toward the door.
“OK.” B’Elanna slowly walked toward the door, turning back just before it opened to watch the Captain lean back against Chakotay’s chest as his arms closed around her. More confused than angry now, B’Elanna stepped onto the bridge and allowed the door to close.
“You OK?” Kathryn settled back, enjoying the solid comfort of his body against hers.
“The Doctor was able to deactivate the gene and aside from a few bumps and bruises which he easily took care of I’m fine.” Chakotay held her tightly, breathing in the soft scent of her hair. He watched her reflection as she closed her eyes, settling contently against him. This was all he needed. “How are you?”
“I’m OK.” Kathryn took a deep shuddering breath. “Chakotay, I’m sorry.”
“Kathryn, don’t do this to yourself again. You did what had to be done and we are all safe because of it.”
“It’s not what I did, Chakotay. It’s how I did it.” Kathryn ran her hands along the strong arms that held her so securely. “B’Elanna call me a…”
“I heard what she said; she’s wrong.”
“She doesn’t think so and there are too many others that probably agree with her.”
“Kathryn, tell me this-why did you do it?
“Ask you to keep trying? We needed..."
“No. Why did you touch me like that?”
“You were upset. I want to calm you down and-the opportunity was there.” She shrugged and he could see the half smile creep across her face.
“But touching me had nothing to do with the words you were saying.” He watched her smile widen. “The way I see it, the captain was doing what was best for her ship and Kathryn was comforting her friend.” He kissed her hair and gave her a light squeeze. And maybe enjoying a little self indulgence?” He chuckled.
“I can’t always keep us separate. You were hurting. It wasn’t just a matter of my first officer needing to do his duty. My best friend and …” Her eyes opened and locked with his reflection. “I-er- needed to touch you.”
“So, don’t worry about what others think; they just don’t understand.”
“I understand, Kathryn. Bringing this ship home is a tremendous undertaking and a horrendous responsibility. I know the toll it takes on you and no matter how I try to ease your burdens, they are still yours. I know the sacrifices you make on a daily basis for this crew, professional and personal. I don’t agree that they are all necessary, but I will support your decisions on them always.”
“I know that, Chakotay, and I can’t begin to tell you how important your support is to me, but I think you know that. One thing we never mention, one thing I need to know you understand.”
“I do know, Kathryn–you don’t have to say it.”
“But I want to say it.” She turned in his arms to face him. “I want you to know - I love you.” Her eyes held his; her fingers gently traced along his jaw as she slowly stretched up bringing her soft moist lips only centimeters from his.
Her warm breath sent a jolt through his body as he bent to meet her, his blood raced in anticipation as his lips gently brushed against hers. Kathryn pressed herself against him. Her fingers made their way into his hair holding him to her, her lips parting invitingly, tongue tracing his lips as they slowly parted giving her access. Kathryn gasped; they both moaned as their tongues tangled for the first time, instantly setting their bodies on fire. The intensity made her knees weak, forcing her to cling to him for support; Chakotay pulled her tightly against the evidence of his growing need.
With an almost a painful whimper, Kathryn broke the kiss and buried her face against his chest. Chakotay held her, stroking her back; their hearts pounding in unison as they worked to regain control.
Kathryn worked to bring her breathing under control, each breath filling her with the delicious scent of him. Her mind wondered what she had done; the captain in her demanded to know, how in one moment of weakness she had destroyed years of restraint; her body melted against him. She knew the strong gentle hands on her back were meant to soothe her, restore her calm; they only fueled the fire. Chakotay’s very evident desire still pressed again her belly. Kathryn shifted her weight causing him to groan; she held on tighter.
“Kathryn.” Chakotay softly broke the long silence. “We should go; you need to rest.”
“Come home with me?” Her hot breath against his chest sent a chill down his spine.
“No.” It took all his strength to force the word out; Kathryn gasped in surprise.
“Chakotay?” Kathryn leaned back to see his face. He hadn’t responded when she told him she loved him but he clearly wanted this as much as she did.
“Kathryn.” He kissed her forehead and pulled her tightly to him not wanting to see the hurt in her face. “I love you, Kathryn, but it would be wrong to rush this.”
“Still looking out for me?” She spoke the words into his chest and felt the rumble of his laughter.
“Yes, even when you don’t want me to.”
“That always seems to be when I need you the most.” Kathryn moved away, suddenly needing that space between them. “You’re right, even though five years could hardly be called rushing.” She smiled. “It would be a shame to destroy what we have over one moment of physical need.” Chakotay nodded solemnly and Kathryn took his hands. “I’m not giving up on this. I know I have some obstacles to overcome before we can move forward in our relationship, but I intend to work on them.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. “Now, you need to rest.”
“Yes, Sir.” She tugged at her uniform, ran her fingers through her hair trying to make herself semi presentable for the necessary walk across the bridge. “Shall we?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” He smiled at her raised eyebrow. “Some would consider it crunch time.”
She laughed, ignoring the looks she got from Gamma shift as they crossed to the lift, together.
“B’Elanna called me a stone hearted manipulative bitch.” Kathryn spoke as soon as the doors closed. “Is she right?”
“There is nothing hard or cold about your heart, Kathryn,” He gently tilted her chin, so that she was forced to look at him. “and it’s your job to give us orders, to get things done. That’s not manipulation.”
“Hey, two out of three isn’t bad!”
Their laughter rang down the empty corridor as they exited the lift arm-in-arm.
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