Say You Care
„What the hell are you doing?"
"Isn't that obvious? I'm taking control of your ship."
"Consider it a test of your loyalty. It's set to kill."
"You said you wouldn't hurt anyone."
"It's set to kill."
"Don't do this Tuvok."
"It's set to kill..."
"It's set to kill...set to kill...set to kill!"
Chakotay woke with a start, sweat beading down his face and neck, the scenes of only a few days prior playing over and over in his mind His pajama shirt clung to his body and, as the sweat started to cool on his heated body, he began to shiver. Shaking his head, he ran a hand over his tired eyes and swung his legs to the side of his bed. His bedside chronometer showed 0500, but even though his shift didn't start until 0800, he knew he wouldn't be able to get any more sleep and even if he did, it would only bring him back to his own personal hell - back to the memories of the recent days.
Not bothering to call for lights; he padded across the bedroom, the streaming, yet unfamiliar, stars outside illuminating his way. As he entered the bathroom, artificial light automatically lit the room as he entered and he squinted into the mirror above the sink, before activating the basin and splashing cold water onto his face.
With his eyes still shut, his hand searched for one of the towels he kept stored on a small shelf. Running it over his face, he looked up into the mirror once more. Tired, red eyes stared back at him, eyes that had been cold and distant only few days ago. Eyes of a person he thought he had buried and come to peace with a long time ago.
But that had been before.
Before Teero had taken control of them, had taken control of him and used him to seize command of Voyager and before he'd almost killed his commanding officer, his best friend, his love.
How could he blame her for not being able to be alone in the same room with him anymore? How could be blame her for not being able to trust him anymore? How could he blame her for flinching away from him, yesterday in an unguarded moment, when he'd touched her arm?
He'd tried to talk to her right after the incident.
He snorted again.
‘Incident' - what a simplistic word.
It played down the actual revulsion that stood behind it. Still, only few of the crew were openly talking about what had happened, about the fact that their comrades and friends had been able to break in a matter of mere hours, the trust that had evolved over months and years together. They referred to it as ‘the incident'. That way it was easier to get on with life, to get on with their work, and their journey home. They couldn't function with the looming shadows of this newfound distrust.
It was easier to forget than to confront it.
Kathryn was no exception. She had sat with Tuvok in Tom's holographic cinema, instead of with him; a clear sign to the crew that the special bond the command team shared was now broken. Until that day, they had always been sure to make an effort to appear together at crew functions, especially after times of discordance and disagreements - . the appearance of their shared camaraderie almost as important as the reality of their bond.
When he had approached her one day after being freed from Teero's influence, she had refused to talk to him about Teero, the mutiny, the Ready Room...It was almost as if nothing had happened at all, as if she had forgotten.
Oh, how he wished she could forget.
How he wished he could forget it too.
He didn't want to remember the fear in her eyes, the searing hurt and disappointment. He may not have had control of his mind and body at that time, but he had still been there - inside, trapped and unable to stop what was happening. He had heard his own cold voice order Tuvok to take the phaser. He had seen the fear in her eyes but also the brave tilt of her chin and her undaunted spirit and he had screamed in silent anguish when Tuvok fired the weapon, but the plea had gone unheard.
Throwing the used towel back into the shelf, he shook his head. No, something had to be done. He couldn't let this stand between them; couldn't allow that damned maniac, Teero destroy even more than he already had. He had to catch Kathryn alone and deal with the aftermath once and for all.
Catching her alone, however, seemed close to impossible. Over the years he had begun to admire Kathryn's ability to literally ‘meld with the ship'. All the crawling through Voyager's belly had given her the advantage. She not only knew her ship inside and out, but was privy to each and every hiding spot. By following her through the ship Chakotay found spots he didn't even know existed. But even with all his efforts, he failed to catch her alone.
One evening though, fate finally played into his hands. Roaming the corridors after alpha shift, he saw her entering the turbolift only a few meters in front of him.
He squeezed in behind her just in time, but when she turned, and realized who had just entered the lift with her, the smile on her face froze and died.
"Computer, deck three," Kathryn ordered after a polite nodded greeting. Her eyes didn't meet his once.
Chakotay sighed, he hated to do this to her, but it seemed that there was no other way.
"Computer, halt turbolift!" He ordered.
She swung around at once, her eyes flashing.
"Computer, resume lift!"
"Computer belay that order! Authorization code Maquis alpha phi five!" The computer gave an affirmative chirp and for one second he saw fear flashing in her eyes, before she managed to mask it. It grieved him to inflict pain on her - again.
"Just what are you thinking...," she hissed at him like a trapped snake that was about to strike.
"I'm sorry, Kathryn... Captain," he corrected himself at her glare and swallowed hard. "I don't want to scare you but I have to talk to you. We have to talk."
"I don't want to talk to you, Chakotay. Not now," she shook her head slightly and moved past him to the other side of the cubicle. The space was far too small and he could see that she felt trapped and although she was trying to hide it, the panic was rising.
He sighed. He had known that this would be difficult.
"But when Kathryn? When will we talk about this? About Teero, and the pain I caused you and the fact that I almost killed you?" Chakotay's voice had grown louder and more desperate with each sentence and she flinched again. This time he wasn't sure if it was because of his raised voice or the words he had said. He paused, and when he spoke again, his voice was gentler.
"I know what I've done to you Kathryn; I know what I was about to do, what Teero almost made me do. I know there is no excuse and it's made my life a living hell but I have to talk to you about it. I have to know that you can forgive me and even if you can't forgive me now, at least let me hope that sometime in the future, you can..." he trailed off. Damn, this whole exchange had been easier in his mind.
She had turned away from him after his outburst, her face hidden from his view. Her shoulders were tense though, her hands clenching and unclenching at her side. He wasn't sure what effect his last words had on her, but he was relieved that she hadn't lashed out at him - yet.
To his surprise, she suddenly sighed and her shoulders fell. When she turned, her eyes showed defeat, the blazing fire from only seconds before, gone.
"There is nothing to forgive, Chakotay. You weren't you. There was nothing you could have done to prevent this from happening. But, if it makes you feel any better, I forgive you," she paused and looked him straight in the eyes. "I...our friendship will need time to overcome this interruption though - and we will get past it eventually - but we won't forget it, not all of it ." She gave him a small, sad smile.
They both were silent for a few moments, each of them contemplating her words.
"So, where does this leave us for now?" Chakotay broke the silence and he hated how thin his voice sounded even to his own ears.
"I think for now we just keep doing what we always do, Chakotay. We go on just like the countless of times before. We go to sleep; we wake up, do our duty and lead our crew home."
‘So this is how it will be,' he thought, realizing that it was all he could ask of her and he hadn't expected anything less from her; was her ability to go on, to focus on what was paramount one of the things he admired most of her.
The wound, the hurt he had caused her would take its time to heal, but she wouldn't let any personal feelings stand in her way. They had a mission - one they would fulfill -, had the mutual responsibility to bring their crew home. They would lead them into safety and they would do so together, like they had for years now.
She stared up at him, as if being unsure of his reaction. Did she think he would try asking for more, for something she couldn't give?
He balled his hands into fists, trying to withstand the urge to touch her. How could he let her know that he understood that he was fine with what she had to give right now? Seconds dragged by, and he knew it was up to him to break the tension.
Giving a slight nod of thanks and understanding, he looked her into the eyes once more, before he turned and took his place next to her and ordered the computer to resume the lift.
They stood in silence as the lift hummed to life, all the words spoken that needed to be said.
She shifted her stance when the lift stopped at its destination and when the doors opened he could feel her hand on his arm, holding him back.
"Commander, I know it's late but I still need your latest report about the Zsyllian Expanse we are about to cross next week. How about we meet in the Mess Hall for a cup of coffee and go over it?"
Her whole body was stiff with tension, and he noted her wish to meet him at a communal place rather than in one of their quarters. She had asked though and he probably had no idea what kind of self-persuasion it took for her to make that kind of move, but he knew a peace offering when he saw one. And he couldn't be more relieved.
Nodding, he fell into step beside her as they made their way to their new destination.
Sadness washed over him once more. This time, however, it was mixed with relief. As Kathryn had said; nothing - not even time - would be able to completely heal these wounds inflicted on their souls by that malevolent stranger, Teero. But eventually they would stop bleeding and start to heal, until only the slightest hint of a scar would be left as a vivid reminder of what they had endured and finally overcome.
They would survive this and in the end it would only make them and their relationship stronger and that was something he felt was worth living for and something that would help him face himself in the mirror again.
Something to forgive himself for in time.