by Keydieh Hurst, April 2016
Disclaimer: Characters don’t belong to me, but I take them out to play.
She felt unsettled. Still.
On and off, she had felt unsettled for weeks of course. But she thought the last few days would give her mind some rest. It did indeed look as if B’Elanna settled in well into her role as chief engineer and so far no problems had been reported. Complaints? Yes. That was to be expected. And that they would be directed to her instead of Commander Chakotay was to be expected as well. She had kept him apprised of the situation, of course. She thought it important that he knew the situation they were dealing with as well as understand that she didn’t give much weight to those complaints.
A couple of times during the last weeks he had invited her for a cup of coffee in his office or his quarters so that they could talk and she found that it usually calmed her down. But more often than that, she was wandering the halls of her ship after her shift. The solitude of her own quarters was depressing and mingling with the crew felt uncomfortable. Today however she had something else on her mind.
She had heard rumors and since Chakotay had not told her about them, she figured they were probably just that. Rumors. But what if they weren’t? What did it mean that he didn’t tell her? She felt the unease rise again and remembered why she had felt unsettled for these past weeks.
Her decision to make B’Elanna chief engineer seemed to be the right one. Carey had easily enough accepted her choice. Heck, he had even come to her to tell her personally that he didn’t hold it against her and that he would give B’Elanna his full support. It was the manner in which Chakotay tried to pressure her into making the decision instead of granting her the time to make up her own mind, that unsettled her.
Kathryn had had a moment with B’Elanna and had then considered her a viable option and when B’Elanna had apologized for losing her temper and admitted that she didn’t think of herself as officer material, Kathryn knew that she would make a good chief engineer. Someone who could admit their own faults and quirks could be trusted to accept them in others. Kathryn wholeheartedly believed that B’Elanna could rise up to her potential with a little coaxing and the right guidance.
When she heard about the rumor today, that apparently in the midst of their last crisis Chakotay had been approached by Maquis crew members and a mutiny had been suggested, she couldn’t help but wonder why he wouldn’t tell her.
She had wandered the halls rather aimlessly, but when she became aware of her surroundings she found herself standing in front of Chakotay’s quarters. It was long after their shift had ended and she contemplated leaving, but also felt that she needed to talk to him, if only to ease her restless mind.
“Computer, locate Commander Chakotay.”
“Commander Chakotay is in his quarters.”
“What’s his current status?” He might be asleep and she really didn’t want to disturb him after hours.
“Commander Chakotay is awake and vital signs are within normal parameters.”
“Janeway to Chakotay.” It took a few seconds before a reply came.
“Chakotay here, Captain.”
“Do you have a few minutes to talk?” she asked, then added “It isn’t urgent.” He might be busy otherwise and she didn’t want to interrupt him for her own whims.
Instead of a reply via comm, the doors to his quarters slid open, revealing him still in uniform but with the outer jacket discarded.
“I heard you through the door.” He explained, “You could have just chimed, you know.” He smiled signaling for her to enter.
“Are you ever off duty, Captain?” Chakotay noticed that he had never seen her out of uniform.
“Are you?” She gave back. And it was true. These days they were never really off duty. Between duty roasters, complaining crew members and shuffling crew quarters there wasn’t really any time left to relax.
“Do you want coffee?” He asked.
“Actually, a cup of tea would be nice.” She decided that caffeine wouldn’t really help her uneasy mind right now.
He replicated her tea and gestured for her to sit down. “What’s on your mind, Captain?”
She took a careful sip from her tea before she answered him, “I heard a rumor and I assume there’s nothing to it or you surely would have said something to me,” she paused briefly, trying to gauge his reaction, “but I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.”
“Must be some rumor.” So he hadn’t heard then?
“Apparently my First Officer has been approached by some Maquis crew members and basically offered my position.” She smiled warily at him, tilting her head to the side.
“Oh my God, it IS true,” she exclaimed when he failed to respond or even look at her, “Why didn’t you say something?”
“Surely you’re aware that not everyone is happy to be here,” he offered.
“Of course, I am. A lot of the Starfleet crew is more than unhappy with my decision. Making Miss Torres Chief engineer hasn’t really helped my popularity ranking either,” she replied, agitated enough to see the need to put her cup down on the table.
“You think it was a mistake?”
“Of course not,” she assured him, “but I think it would have been fair to keep me in the loop about something like that.”
“Why?” He asked, his voice a tad louder than before, “So they can be misjudged and cast aside for something they said in the heat of the moment when none of them knew what was going to happen with them or where they were standing with you?”
“That’s not fair,” she spat, getting up from her seat and pacing in front of him.
“But it’s true,” he replied, calmer now, “and you know it.”
“Are you that dissatisfied with the treatment of your crew?” She asked, uncertain where this had come from.
“Not entirely, no,” he admitted, “You’ve given B’Elanna a fair chance.”
“The Starfleet crew seems wary of the Maquis. Many of them feel unwelcome and looked down upon.” He sighed.
“I’ve noticed.” She understood his explanation. She was facing the same struggle. “I’ve read too many complaints about Starfleet crew members feeling uneasy around unruly Maquis.”One hand securely at her hip, she cradled her forehead in her other hand in exasperation.
“We’re not all rambunctious rascals,” he said.
“And we’re not all stuck-up brats,” she gave back in challenge.
There were so many obstacles to overcome and she asked herself once again what she had gotten herself into. She had asked her crew to accept Chakotay as First Officer and they struggled even though they didn’t openly oppose her. And she had asked them again to accept a Maquis crew member as superior officer. One who hadn’t even graduated from the Academy. And it hadn’t even strengthened her acceptance amongst the Maquis crew. It just never seemed to get easier.
“You have to give me all the information, if you want me to make objective decisions,” she finally offered.
“And how exactly would a proposed mutiny help you make an objective decision in that case?” His eyes hardened again and his jaw was set.
“I would have known how unhappy they were.”
“Would that have changed anything?”
“Probably not.” She owed him the truth at least. “I guess I have been expecting the Maquis to live by Starfleet rules right away. I can’t hold them to the same standards.” She shrugged, at a loss as how to handle his crew.
“You should hold them to the same standards.” She was surprised at his admission, “But you have to give them a little leeway when they can’t meet them yet.” She wondered if he was speaking about his crew members, or himself.
“And you have to let me make up my own mind.” She said in return, “Without trying to pressure me into the decision you think is right.” His adamance to make Miss Torres chief engineer was still nagging at her. “I can’t do my job, if I constantly have to fear you openly opposing me.”
“I understand and I apologize. I’m not trying to make your life harder,” and he meant it. “But I didn’t feel like you were giving B’Elanna enough consideration.”
“I was following protocol.” She defended herself again.
“If you follow each and every stupid protocol, my crew will never have a chance to fully integrate.” He was on edge and she could hear it in his voice, “I won’t stand for that.”
“You’re right,” He was surprised but trying not to let it show. “Maybe under the circumstances, we have to bend a few rules here and there to make it work.”
“Do you think you can do that?” He honestly wondered.
“Maybe, you have to remind me every once in a while.” She shrugged, but gave him a lopsided smile. “But I like making up my own mind, Commander,” she reminded him.
“I apologize if I was too blunt,” He offered again, hoping it did make a difference for her, “but it didn’t seem like you were open to all the possibilities and it was my duty to you and our crew to make you aware of that.”
“To be frank, I was angry,” she explained, finally sitting back down. “I don’t like being publicly challenged as wrong, but I shouldn’t have expected anything less from you.”
“Maybe in the future I could try challenging you not quite so publicly,” he grinned.
“I would appreciate that.” She nodded then looked questioningly at him when he chuckled quietly.
“Warp particles,” he offered as explanation, shaking a little with silent laughter. “You and B’Elanna had quite a vibe there. It was a little intimidating.”
She gave him a full-fleshed, teeth-showing smile when she finally understood. “I have to admit, I enjoyed that.”
“You don’t say.” He could quite visibly remember the gleam in both the women’s eyes when they got into a full-blown techno-babble that half the senior officers were unable to follow, much less at the pace their mouths were producing the words.
“It’s refreshing to have someone who isn’t intimidated by my position,” she said and he understood.
They had been in the Delta Quadrant for only a few weeks and he can imagine that it was lonely at the top, especially in a command structure as tight as Starfleet’s, without any at least equally ranking officers around. After watching the captain and Torres together, he could imagine them as friends though, if they could get over their differences. They were both fiercely loyal and thick-headed.
He also had to admit that he was relieved to see B’Elanna start to fit in and put some of her anger aside. He had been afraid that her anger issues would keep her from accepting Janeway as her commanding officer. He would have hated for her to make her life harder than it already was. The fact that Janeway had even taken her into consideration as chief engineer had boosted Torres’ confidence. Chakotay knew that she wouldn’t just throw away this opportunity and that Janeway had gained Torres’ respect by giving her a fair fighting chance.
“Thank you for giving B’Elanna a chance,” he said in all honesty, when Kathryn set her empty cup down and got up to leave. She looked up from straightening her uniform and gave him a sincere nod and a smile.
He accompanied her to the door and when she stepped outside she lingered in the open door for a moment.
“Thank you for nudging me in the right direction.” She grinned and bowed her head as she stepped out.
He smiled and looked after her for a few moments as she straightened her posture, clasped her hands behind her back and strode with a renewed vigor down the corridor. He had to shake his head in amusement when she gave a curt but friendly nod to a passing crewmen before she rounded the corner and disappeared from his sight. There was no mistaking who commanded this vessel and its crew. And there was no doubt in his mind, that it was he who had made the ultimately correct choice.