By Keydieh Hurst
Disclaimer: Characters don’t belong to me, or they would have been allowed way more fun. I just take them out to play.
“Are you okay?“ It was a rhetorical question really. She didn’t expect him to be okay. He had just lost his ship after all.
“No, you?“ Of course she wasn’t. Neither of them was. There wasn’t a single person on the ship who was okay. Well, maybe there were two.
“Well, at least I still have my ship,“ she quipped rather dryly. And a burden about the size and weight of it as well, she thought.
“You did just promise to share, you know,“ he replied with a genuine smile and she pondered for a moment if he meant her ship or her burden.
There really wasn’t much of a choice. He could play the hero, but when it came down to it, the choice had been a practical one. His ship had already been falling apart when they entered the Badlands and by the time they reached the Delta Quadrant with bumps and bruises it seemed it was held together by spit and gum alone. Voyager, on the other hand, was state of the art. Brand new out of dry dock. And it had the capacity to house both their crews, which honestly, the Liberty wouldn’t have been able to.
“I don’t think I’ve officially thanked you for your sacrifice,“ she said.
“Wasn’t much of a ship anyway,“ he replied.
“I don’t just mean the ship,“ she offered.
She didn’t need to say it and he had to admit that he was mildly surprised. The ship wasn’t much of a sacrifice. But he had given up his captaincy along with it. Not that he really envied her for that position right about now. He didn’t really have the desire to lead a Starfleet crew, much less on a mission that seemed impossible to achieve. But then, he wouldn’t have wanted to lead a Maquis crew under those circumstances as well. But then, he didn’t really want to lead a Maquis crew under Alpha Quadrant circumstances either.
But he had basically just defected from the Maquis for an organization that he had deserted long ago as well. And he wasn’t captain anymore So basically he wasn’t leading anyone anywhere.
“So, thank you,“ she said when he remained quiet.
It had taken some time to get the Maquis settled on Voyager. While there were more quarters than her crew had needed to begin with, even with the casualties some people needed to cohabitate. They had stuck their heads together to decide who would live with who. She didn’t know her crew yet, he knew his all the better. It was quickly decided that it was too early to stick Maquis and Starfleet together in such close quarters, but they would wait for people to get to know each other and maybe decide on their own if they wanted to share cabins with different people.
He knew his crew well enough to know who would need single quarters and she was glad for the Starfleet training of her crew that would allow no complaints if they didn’t exactly like their bunk buddies. At least for now. She was generally glad for the Starfleet training. It meant that she could expect a certain behavior from her crew, something she couldn’t say for the Maquis. While some of them were former Starfleet members, Janeway wondered if and how those who had never been part of that organization would fit in and how the expected behavior could be enforced if they struggled. She was thankful that Chakotay had agreed to be her First Officer. She was pretty sure she could rely on him to bring struggling Maquis members into the fold.
Since Chakotay was now her First Officer, he had been given Lieutenant Commander Cavit’s former quarters, right next to hers. Thinking that he might feel weird moving into a dead man’s quarters and having to remove his personal belongings, few as they were, Kathryn had offered to do it for him or have someone else do it. But he had refused, explaining that if he were to take over the man’s position it was only right he paid his respects by doing it himself. He had however asked if she would help him, thinking that maybe since she actually knew Cavit and was his captain it was more respectful to the deceased man if she was at least present when his presence was removed from the room. While Chakotay didn’t say as much to Kathryn, she understood that he wanted to give her the chance to pay her own respects, maybe even mourn the man.
She had accepted quickly, considering that it would also give them the opportunity to get a feel for each other. They would have to work side by side after all. She would have to trust him and he would have to trust her. She knew more about him than he knew about her, but she didn’t know the man behind his file. The few glimpses she had gotten of his character told her a lot, though. The stride with which he took Tuvok’s betrayal, accepting that the man had only adhered to his loyalties. The grudge he held against Tom Paris, because the man had no loyalties but himself. The way he had not hesitated to destroy his own ship, and if anything had gone wrong his own life, to save them all from the Kazon without knowing how she would treat him and his crew on her ship, if she would even welcome them. And the apparent ease with which he stepped into the role that fate had dealt him, owning up to the debt he owed Paris despite their differences. It told her a great deal about his character and it let her know that she could trust this man with her life and the lives of their crewmembers.
“Actually I didn’t really like Cavit,“ she admitted as she lifted the last box with the man’s belongings, setting it next to the door with the other boxes, and turning around to Chakotay.
He looked at her for a moment and she couldn’t decipher his look, wondering if he was surprised by her admission, although he didn’t look like it.
“Want to break in my replicator?“ He offered instead after a few seconds, gesturing to his couch. She just shrugged, smiled and sat down. He replicated tea for himself then looked at her in question as to what she wanted.
“Black tea with milk,“ she said, “No wait…“ (add a space here) While the tea would calm her down and warm her up, she gathered she should be alert and ready to jump back onto the bridge, since they couldn’t really know when the Kazon would be back having more or less declared open war on them.
“Coffee, black,“ she said instead. He chuckled and nodded, obviously being more than able to follow her train of thought.
“One black coffee coming right up.“ He handed her the mug and settled in the armchair across from her. “So how are you holding up, really?“ He asked, taking a sip from his tea while watching her over the rim of his cup.
She shrugged. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I guess I’m still thinking we will be back home tomorrow.“ She did look pensive though, telling him that her situation, no, their situation, had sunk in more than she was willing to let on.
“We might never see it again, though,“ he probed, not to upset her, but also not exactly knowing why.
“No,“ she admitted with a heavy sigh, turning to look out at the unfamiliar stars. “Who did you leave behind?“ She asked without turning around, not sure she wanted to see the pain on his face.
“My sister is the only one close,“ he replied with sincerity and surprisingly without flinching, “But I haven’t spoken to her in a while.“ He did have a cousin in Ohio, but it wasn’t like they were close enough to really miss him.
She was surprised that he didn’t mention other family. A girlfriend, maybe even a wife or kids, but then his file would have told her that, wouldn’t it? She briefly wondered if maybe he did have a significant other that was stranded here with them. Maybe his lover was actually on her ship and she wondered if she should know in case he played favorites, or it influenced his command decisions. But she quickly dismissed the thought. It wasn’t her place at the moment and if he wanted her to know he would tell her. And even though, if problems did arise she would have to deal with them then anyway, no sense in wondering now.
She had to admit though, that he intrigued her, that she would actually like to know if there was someone. Not because she was interested in him, despite his obvious attractiveness, but because she figured he was the kind of upstanding and loyal man who had a gentle heart and she wondered if there was woman - or a man for that matter - aboard her ship now who had managed to capture that gentle heart. Maybe it was B’Elanna Torres, she thought, but then figured she didn’t know any of them well enough to actually make an educated guess.
“No one on the ship either,“ he added, when she kept looking at him with unfocused eyes.
She hadn’t even noticed that she had turned around and looked at him. But being caught now, she felt a blush creep up her cheeks and knowing he must see it as clearly as she felt it, she cast her eyes down and looked into her almost empty mug.
“What about you?“ He asked in return. He couldn’t imagine that she didn’t have anyone, figured a woman of her age and looks most probably had a husband waiting for her at home, maybe even kids. But then again, she didn’t quite look old enough to have kids and a captaincy at her age.
“There’s no one on the ship,“ she replied without hesitation, then realized what he meant, “Oh.“ She looked at the desk where the frame would be standing if these were her quarters. But they weren’t and the desk was still empty.
“My mother, my sister and my fiancé.“ She looked forlorn when she turned back around to look at the stars she wished were the ones she had so often gotten bored looking at at home. “Mark’s taking care of Molly for me.“
So he had underestimated her. She was the kind of woman who could pull it off, having a career and kids. “My dog,“ she added at his surprised expression. “She is going to have puppies soon.“ She sighed, wondering if Mark would keep Molly with him even if she didn’t return, then shuddered at the thought of never seeing her beloved dog and her family again.
“Wouldn’t have figured you as a dog person,“ Chakotay said, tilting his head slightly, trying to ease the mood, away from what they had left behind, back to getting to know each other.
“I’m not actually.“ She smiled at his perceptiveness, “But I found her abandoned and I’m kind of a sucker for strays.“ She shrugged lightly, cherishing the memory.
“Looks like it,“ he replied, chuckling, “You did manage to collect Tom from the penal colony, a couple of runaway Maquis and two aliens from species no one in the Alpha Quadrant has ever heard of before and got them to follow your lead within a matter of days.“
He was right, wasn’t he? She had gotten herself into a ridiculous situation and yet still taken up two strays on the way. She had to laugh at the absurdity and instantly noticed how good it felt to laugh rather than worry. There was enough time to worry tomorrow and the days after. Tonight though, she couldn’t change anything and the easy camaraderie between them felt good.
“You know, Cavit was arrogant,“ she suddenly said, “and I was glad the mission would only last about three weeks.“
“You didn’t choose him as your First Officer?“ He was surprised, as far as he knew it was the captain’s prerogative to choose their crew.
“No, seeing as it was a rather short mission, I didn’t really bother. I chose a few members, like Harry Kim and Tom Paris, and Tuvok, of course, but most of the crew had already been chosen when I accepted captaincy. And I only accepted because of Tuvok and because such a short mission wouldn’t actually interfere with my wedding plans.“ Now it was her turn to chuckle. “Mark and I did have an argument about it.“
“Let me guess,“ Chakotay interrupted, “in the end he had to accept defeat and accept that if he wanted to marry you, he had to marry all of that as well.“ He gestured towards her pips and around his quarters.
“He has known me since we were kids, so he knew what he was getting into.“ She smiled. “As much as any of us could have known.“ He watched her, trying to gauge if she was falling back into a pensive mood, but she smiled openly at him, then took the last sip from her coffee.
“Well, thank you for this, Commander,“ she said, while she slowly stood up and took her mug to the replicator to be recycled, “and I don’t just mean the coffee.“
“Anytime, Captain.“ He nodded as they walked to the door of his quarters.
When the doors slid open, she quickly turned to him and said, “Something tells me I might even manage 75 years with you.“ She grinned before she went out into the hall and the doors closed behind her.
“Me too.“ He answered to the closed door, grinning to himself. He had a feeling that even if it took them 75 years to reach Earth, there could be worse people to spend them with.