The red and ragged skin on her hands still stings when she runs her fingers over it. The scar on her cheek burns even more, but she cannot bring herself to touch that part of her aching body yet. She saw the damage the fire did to her face in a cracked mirror this morning. What she saw shocked her for some reason.
She has seen herself with countless of wounds, one worse than the other, but those had always been healed within seconds the minute a doctor came into sight. Knowing that wounds have become scars, that they will be permanent is a strange and unwelcome sensation. She doesn’t care that she is scarred for the rest of her life. It’s that nothing could be done to prevent that. That basically the only thing holding Voyager is her crew’s will.
For the first time since this hellish year began, she feels exhausted, powerless and afraid. The ship is crumbling around her and with nothing but certain death in her future, she feels lonelier than ever since they got stuck in the Delta-Quadrant. Maybe it’s the fact that for the first time Voyager is actually failing her.
A shuffling outside the half open doors makes her tear her stare away from her damaged hands. In the dim flickering light she can see the stained yellow of a Starfleet uniform and then a pronounced klingon forehead.
“Come in, B’Elanna,” she says and surprisingly startles her Chief Engineer, her only engineer.
“I’m sorry, Captain,” B’Elanna starts as she tries to squeeze herself through the narrow opening. “I didn’t realize you were here. I assumed you wouldn’t use this space anymore.
“Quite understandable,” Kathryn replies as she takes in her half collapsed ready room, the large beam that cuts the room in two. “Precisely the reason why I am here.” She can be close enough to the bridge to be there should Annorex find them, but, despite the broken doors, enough to give her privacy.
“If you want me to leave, I’ll just go,” B’Elanna says and already starts to move back to the crack in the doors.
“Unless you absolutely want to be alone, you’re welcome to join me and sit here.” B’Elanna looks at her with doubt, but Kathryn lifts the left corner of her mouth, giving her a smile that she hasn’t smiled in weeks. The corners of B’Elanna’s mouth twitch and nods. She sits down next to her captain on the only other part of the couch that is not completely destroyed. Her brown eyes widen when she sees Kathryn’s face up close.
“Is something wrong, captain?”
“Apart from the obvious, no. Should there be?” B’Elanna frowns at the captain’s light tone, an expression of worry briefly flashing over her face.
“You’ve been crying.”
“Have I?” Softly Kathryn touches the skin under her eye. When she pulls back her fingertips are glistening, wet with her tears. Surprised she rubs her thumb over her other fingers. She hasn’t cried since Kes left them more than a year ago. “I hadn’t realized,” she whispers.
“Lost in thought?”
“Something like that.” Her eyes briefly flick towards the scars on her hands. If she concentrates, she can still feel the flames charring her skin. She shivers.
“Captain?” B’Elanna voice is thick with emotions, something that Kathryn cannot recall ever happening before. “Kathryn, it’s going to be alright.” Her name, not her title from the engineer’s lips. It’s strange, but comforting.
“To think that there was a time you would have rather strangled me than be under me command, let alone start calling me by my first name,” Kathryn attempts to joke. She knows it’s terrible, but luckily B’Elanna understands.
“Strangle? That would take a few minutes at best. That’s too short for a feeling of revenge.”
“It’s good to know how much you disliked me.” They both smile. Despite the desperation of the situation, it helps the captain that there are still some positive moments to be found. “It’s even better to see how much you have changed.”
“Thank you,” B’Elanna says, gratefully. “I meant what I said. It’s going to be alright.”
“I want to believe to you, but I am beginning to lose hope.” It’s the first time since the beginning of this year that she has said those words out loud. The first time she has allowed the meaning of those words to fully come to her. Before this moment she has always suppressed them into a dark corner of her mind.
“I never thought I would hear you say those words.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
“It’s not that. Every member of the crew has had countless of moments where they thought their hope was hanging on by a single thread, but never you. I was almost accepting the fact that it was impossible for you to lose hope.”
“Once a seven month adrenalin rush wears off, even I lose my hope.”
“I wish there was a way, any way I could help you.”
“You’re doing more than you can already, B’Elanna, running engineering alone, keeping this ship running. I couldn’t ask more of you.”
“It isn’t asking when I’m offering.”
“You couldn’t give me what I need,” Kathryn says weakly. Right now it seems impossible that anyone could ever give her what she needs. She barely knows what that is herself.
“Kathryn, I - -“ B’Elanna says. Kathryn feels the weight of the engineers hand on her shoulder. She looks up, blue meeting brown.
“Yes?” B’Elanna seems to search for the right words to say, something to help her captain, but the blue eyes are cutting right through her, leaving her incapable of forming any words. Her eyes flick to Kathryn’s half parted lips. Slowly and hesitantly she moves forward.
Kathryn looks at her chief engineer coming closer, at her dilated pupils, apparently focused on her lips. She could still decide to stop this, to prevent it from happening and then to forget it almost happened. But she finds she doesn’t want that. Shakily she draws in a breath and closes the remaining distance between them.
B’Elanna’s lips are soft and warm. She smells like soot and sweat, but underneath everything that reminds Kathryn of the battles they’ve fought she smells like B’Elanna, like the strong-headed warrior, like the weaknesses that she rarely dares to show.
A soft, hardly noticeable lick makes her part her lips and let the half klingon take the lead. She tastes even better than she smells. As B’Elanna gently pushes her down, Kathryn lies down, placing herself under the warm body. She feels B’Elanna cup her damaged cheek, her fingers touching the scar, tracing it from beginning to its ends.
She gasps, breaking the kiss. She covers B’Elanna’s hand with her own, pulling it back. She brings those capable fingers to her lips.
“Does it hurt?”
“No,” she lies. The sound of her own voice surprises her. It’s hoarser and heavy with something, lust or something more.
Softly, so softly B’Elanna brushes her full lips against the scar. Kathryn feels as if something inside of her explodes, filling her body to the tips of her fingers. She clutches at B’Elanna’s shoulder, holding her close to her own body. They kiss again. A kiss that Kathryn never shared with anyone else before. Despite an imperfect situation, this moment in all the chaos, is calm and perfect.
“Bridge to the captain”
“Damn Vulcan,” B’Elanna hisses. Kathryn smiles the at the woman lying on top of her.
“We have a Nihydron ship on sensors. They are willing to negotiate.”
“On my way.” She looks into B’Elanna’s eyes. “It appears I am needed.”
“Yes, it does.” The chief engineer pushes herself up, away from Kathryn’s body. There’s a distinct slump in her shoulders when she sits down in her original spot. Disappointment is written all over her face. Kathryn sits up too, not even attempting to brush her hair back into place.
As she gets up from the couch, she hears B’Elanna sigh. She turns around, facing her, unable to find the right words or movements. She reaches out and brushes some of B’Elanna’s brown hair out of her face, revealing her forehead, her brown eyes.
“B’Elanna. I won’t forget this unless you want me to.” B’Elanna shakes her head and smiles weakly. Kathryn nods and walks towards the bridge.