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As much as she wanted to, Kathryn felt unable to steer her attention towards the Doctor’s words. She was leaning over a console in sickbay and while the Doctor was going on and on about his adventure on the holodeck her eyes kept skittering over to the doors, wishing they would finally open and reveal her ‘away team’.
When they had heard the desired words over the comm that Harry, Tuvok and Chakotay were back safe and sound, B’Elanna had transferred the EMH back to sickbay and the captain had ordered the three men to sickbay as well to make sure they were indeed returned unscathed.
Now she was standing here, only half-listening when what she really wanted to do was pace in front of the door or better yet walk out the door and meet her crewmen halfway. But she knew Tuvok and Chakotay were bringing Harry up to date and she had promised to meet them here. It wouldn’t do the Doctor’s ego or her own reputation any good if she couldn’t even wait the few minutes until the three men finally arrived.
Kathryn was about ready to give up on her own resolution and walk out when the doors finally opened and she saw Harry enter first. She immediately turned towards them and while she greeted Harry and then Tuvok with a smile and a nod, her eyes skirted past them, desperately waiting for Chakotay to walk through the doors and when he finally did she felt a huge burden lift from her heart and her shoulders slump. She felt herself slip as soon as it happened, but still couldn’t stop the heavy sigh leave her lungs when she was finally, finally allowed to see with her own eyes that her First Officer was indeed safe and sound.
Chakotay’s eyes had settled on Kathryn’s face the moment he set foot inside sickbay. For the last two weeks his thoughts had kept wandering to their moment after the incident with Seska. He couldn’t shake the feeling of her hand on his and for some reason he wanted to gauge her reaction when she saw him again. He wasn’t sure what exactly he expected, it was more than probable that she wouldn’t react any different to seeing him than she would to seeing Harry or Tuvok again.
But when their eyes met, Chakotay saw her slip up for a second. He watched her shoulders sag just slightly, her face crumple a fraction, her lips opening slightly to exhale a heavy sigh, before she reined herself in and greeted him with the same smile and nod that she had given Tuvok and Harry before. The only thing that told him of the tension in her was the constant clenching and unclenching of her fists. He watched her lay her hand on Tuvok’s arm for a moment while she talked to him, and then repeat the same gesture with Harry. Keeping his own gaze fixed on his captain her furtive glances in his direction were not lost on him, but he was patiently waiting until it was his turn.
Kathryn was of course relieved for every single one of the three men that stepped through the sickbay doors, but for some reason she couldn’t tear her eyes from Chakotay. Even when Tuvok quickly briefed her and when she talked to Harry afterwards, she couldn’t help but glance over to Chakotay. After a few minutes, that seemed like hours to her, she finally gave in and walked over to him.
“Commander,” she nodded and smiled, an exact replica of her former interactions, “good to have you back.”
“I’m glad to be home, Captain.” he replied with a smile, taking note of her hand that had snuck out to touch his arm but wasn’t removed.
Chakotay’s mind wandered when he looked down at her hand and he was only dimly aware of the questions she asked him and the answers he gave. His mouth kept moving and words were coming out, but he didn’t feel as if he was in control of what he was saying. He felt bereft when she removed her hand to turn slightly when the Doctor came over to talk to them. But the way she turned made her hip press against his outer thigh and while he heard himself respond to the EMH and talk about monsters and demons in other cultures he felt her fingers brush against his knee or the back of his hand. He didn’t dare look at her and kept his gaze fixed on the Doctor or his own hands, or watched Kathryn’s hands fidget while she watched the medic scan him.
Just as Chakotay’s, Kathryn’s mind was also only half aware of the conversation taking place in front of her. She was relieved for every single one of the three crewmen they got back, but for some reason she couldn’t stop touching Chakotay. She could feel herself stand close enough to feel his body heat seep through their uniforms, felt the warmth in her fingertips when they brushed against him. She was heavily aware that she was touching him too much, but he didn’t complain and she needed the reassurance and comfort. She listens to him talking about monsters in other cultures and demons that represented what lived inside of people and all she wants to do is hug him. But that would be inappropriate, so she settled for letting his voice fill her thoughts and couldn’t help the smile that was plastered on her face since she saw him step through the doors.
Even when they were finished in sickbay and Chakotay was declared fit for duty, she could barely contain her own exuberance and offered to walk him back to his quarters. They walked in easy silence, both of them a little overcome by the day’s events and lost in their own thoughts and emotions about it all. They walked so close that their shoulders kept touching, but neither one of them was willing to withdraw even an inch, both aware that they craved the contact and relishing in the obvious fact that they were close enough to allow it.
It was only when they reached Chakotay’s quarters that Kathryn took a step away from him and looking him up and down for a few seconds finally cut their connection.
“Commander,” she said, clasping her hands behind her back and straightening her back in her best command stance, “see you on the bridge tomorrow.”
She nodded with a bright smile and turned around to walk the rest of the way to her own quarters. Chakotay took in her confident stride and the slight lifting of her chin and shook his head with a content smile before he entered his quarters.