Section one, battle from "Caretaker" from Chakotay's ship's perspective instead of Voyager's:
He'd felt something spark between them when he first saw her. Not at the moment of materialization on her bridge, her eyes wide at the sight of his weapon trained on her--but just afterward, when she strode between himself and the sonofabitch sellout who worked for her. Her glare restraining him more than her shoulder against his chest, their lives becoming hopelessly entwined tens of thousands of light years from home...but he had little time to dwell on such feelings until later, after she had let the sonofabitch inexplicably risk his sorry life to save him, and he found himself in her sickbay awaiting her electronic doctor's permission to leave the statis field which fused the bones in his leg back together. Only then did he close his eyes long enough to think back through the events of the previous few hours, back to his first vision of her on the viewscreen of his ship.
Captain Kathryn Janeway. So far, everything about her had been a pleasant surprise. Even her presence here at the end of the universe. Of course, if she'd never shown up, he would never have found out about Tuvok...he waited for the anger to flare, but what he felt was closer to disgust, and directed inwards. He'd come to trust Tuvok almost more than Torres, and frankly he put the odds of their getting home with the Vulcan much higher than without him--Tuvok himself could probably calculate the exact figures. No, he didn't hate Tuvok for doing his job.
Besides, much as he hated to admit it, he could understand the Vulcan's loyalty to Janeway. He'd been impressed with the way she interrogated the old man on the Array, and with the fact that she'd felt comfortable letting a rebel commander speak as her equal. Not that it had mattered, given the technology they were up against. In the underground city, she'd been a better interpreter than he had, plus she'd been smart enough to listen to Tuvok right away.
And she'd let that idiot Paris risk his own life to save a man she was supposed to apprehend as an enemy of the Federation. He'd honestly believed that he was going to die, that hers might be the last face he ever saw, and the grief in her expression still startled him--she'd had her hands full with Tuvok, couldn't possibly have saved him herself, yet for a moment he had thought she might try. A definite connection, a likeness of spirit which intrigued him. He had to admit he was moved by her, the kind of captain he would have served under gladly, once.
He glanced in her direction just as the sickbay comm system came on. "Bridge to Janeway."
"Captain, two Kazon ships are approaching the Array."
They made brief eye contact, then Janeway was out the door and off to her bridge. He glanced down and discovered that his leg was free; flexing it experimentally, he looked over at Torres. The engineer appeared rather pale and listless, but her eyes were focused. He snapped his fingers at her as he sat up. "We have to get back to our ship." She rolled, her feet landing on the deck, and followed him out of sickbay, ignoring the doctor's protests.
His ship, the nameless collection of scraps which B'Elanna and others had reconstituted out of a 39-year-old engine and some stolen parts--he doubted it could survive another trip like the one which had brought them to this part of the galaxy. What mattered right now was keeping Voyager safe. The Intrepid-class vessel could keep them all alive, his crew as well as Janeway's. And he had a feeling that he could trust her to treat his people fairly, to listen to him before turning them over to a Starfleet board of inquiry.
For several long minutes nothing happened. He waited for a word from Janeway, for a hail from Jabin. Then abruptly the lead Kazon vessel fired on the starship. Voyager hit back cleanly, raking the smaller ship with phaser blasts and rolling out of the path of return fire.
Her Lieutenant Rollins appeared to be pretty good. "Are the automatic phaser locks working?" Torres shook her head no as she fought with her console. "Then get me a narrow beam on the second ship, we'll do this manually," he added, checking the readouts on his single phaser bank and glancing up for Torres' nod before firing a volley at the underside of the smaller ship. While he did so, the bridge's communication signal whistled.
"Janeway to Chakotay."
He did not answer her for a moment, as the Kazon turned to engage him. "B'Elanna, I need more power now!" He swung his ship beneath the enemy to circle behind, closing on its stern and firing phasers at maximum.
Apparently Voyager had them on visual, for Janeway did not wait for a response. "Tuvok and I are beaming to the Array. Can you hold off the Kazon?" Not really a question, she sounded certain that he could.
"I think so, Captain." The title fell easily from his lips. Just two enemy vessels, and if her own tactical officer was as good as he appeared to be, the ships ought to be fine for as long as it took her to figure out how to get them home.
"Good." She left the channel open as he swung his ship toward the lead Kazon vessel, Jabin's ship. Voyager moved to close on the other one.
"This is Paris," came the voice over the speaker, surprising him--had Janeway left him at the helm? "We're going into evasive maneuvers, lambda sequence. Remember?" One of the few tactics Starfleet and the Maquis had in common: a holding pattern to stall a weaker enemy. The big starship eased around a barrage of artillery from one of the Kazon ships, banking slightly toward the Array.
And then something went horribly wrong. A screech, unidentifiable but almost deafening. The sounds coming over the comm system froze everyone on the Maquis bridge.
"Get them offline! Unlock the constrictors!" someone on Voyager was shouting, while another voice--Rollins?--yelled orders for the evacuation of several high-numbered decks. Looking up at the viewscreen, Chakotay saw an alarming glow in the starship's nacelles.
His engineer's hands moved across the battered panel, adjusting monitors to take readings. "It looks like some kind of warp anomaly," she reported. "Definitely a microfracture, there's a leak in--"
The lead Kazon vessel fired directly at Voyager's engineering section. An explosion which would have been impossible had the shields been full strength rocked the ship. Then the glow was brighter, and the starship lurched at an angle perilously close to the array.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see across the bridge behind him as Seska shaved herself backwards out of her chair. "Chakotay, get us out of here! Their core's going to breach!" He glanced at Torres, who nodded horrified confirmation.
"Paris!" he shouted over the din on his own ship. "We're going to beam your people out of there! Can you move..."
"We don't have time for this!" Seska was screaming behind him, while B'Elanna was reporting that they couldn't get a transporter lock through this kind of interference. They were almost at a safe distance: if he moved his ship any closer to attempt transport, his own vessel might be damaged beyond repair--
"Chakotay." Ayala's voice. He looked up at the screen, where another ship was closing. Kazon reinforcements, easily fifty times the size of the ships they'd been engaging.
No time to think, barely time to react. "Can you get a lock on the comm badges on the array?" he managed while he attempted to maneuver his own vessel away from the massive enemy and the little fighters and the doomed starship.
"Get them up here, now!"
He heard the whine of the transporter as the enemy opened fire, straight at Voyager. Nothing short of a suicide run could have stopped that Kazon ship... He saw Janeway and Tuvok materialize at the back of his bridge, the Vulcan turning immediately to Seska's station despite her exclamation of protest. Janeway strode furiously behind him. "Why did you beam us--"
A great flash of light like a supernova filling the screen. His ship rocking with the blast, flipping out of control for several moments, steadying as B'Elanna brought the inertial dampers up. Then the light from the viewer faded.
Large pieces of debris hovered between his ship and the battered Kazon warship.
Voyager was gone.
So was the Array.
"What--" Janeway made a sound between a gasp and a cry, her fingernails gripping into his shoulders like claws; she had seized him as the nearest stable object when the ship began to somersault. Chakotay looked over at B'Elanna, who turned to both of them.
"That was close," she said. "It almost took us out too."
"What happened?" he finished for Janeway.
"My guess is that there was already a microfracture in the core, and it ruptured. An imbalance in the flow regulators with so many systems working over capacity at once...when the Kazon fired, with the constrictors offline, it must have overloaded."
He glanced back at Janeway. She was still staring at the screen, her lips parted in shock, eyes moving back and forth as if her brain couldn't yet absorb what they were seeing.
"We are being hailed," Tuvok's voice reported quietly.
The image on the viewer faded as Jabin's face appeared, snarling, "You have made an enemy today."
"Likewise." Janeway answered before Chakotay had time to think of a response. Her voice was deadly soft; for a moment it almost appeared that the Kazon leader believed in the threat it held. Then Jabin lifted his head and signaled to cut the transmission. The alien ship, crippled but still in better shape than Chakotay's own, turned slowly away amidst the debris. Chakotay thought that the little Talaxian and his pixie lover would have had a boon of scrap metal, if they had not been aboard Voyager...
His throat closed over slowly.
"How much time do you estimate we will require for repairs before we can leave this system?" Tuvok was asking Torres quietly.
"I don't know if the warp drive can be repaired without supplies we haven't got." She paused, glancing behind Chakotay at Janeway, whose eyes remained riveted on the viewscreen. "At least two days. Probably more. And the shields are barely functional."
Together the crew watched the Kazon move off through the wreckage. The new enemy would surely be back in less time than it would take to repair their own damage. Chakotay waited several minutes before standing down the alert. He swung around to look at Janeway as he rose; she was still staring out into space, her expression smoldering.
"Come on, I'll show you the engines." His quiet voice abruptly brought her gaze around to focus on his face. After the adrenaline surge from the battle, the reality seemed to hit her all at once.
Her ship was gone. All her people were dead. Everything that mattered within 70,000 light years, vaporized. She staggered as if someone had punched her in the gut and reached out for the back of the chair Chakotay had just vacated. As his fingers closed around her arm, he realized how close he was himself to collapsing.
She looked up, brows furrowing, concentrating on him. "Yes," she grated. "Let's go." Chakotay nodded to Tuvok as he ushered her away. He had to get off the bridge; he couldn't look at Janeway's face. "At least the Ocampa are safe," she whispered. He stared straight ahead as the lift doors opened, wondering whether what she had just seen had destroyed her reason.
But he was the one who fell apart in the lift. "Halt," he barked almost as soon as the doors closed, putting his hands on the side for support. His eyes rolled closed and he breathed in a hard, deep rhythm, trying to calm himself.
Darkness. Light rising through it--a burst of brilliance as the matter and antimatter came together--
So suddenly she screamed a little, he drew back his fist and slammed it into the metal hard enough to bend it under the force of the blow.
They faced each other, both shaking slightly.
"Your crew--" he began. And could not finish.
He did not know whether she reached for him because she was crying or because he was. Within a moment they had locked together, clinging to one another in searing grief. His face buried in her hair. He could feel hot tears sliding from his cheeks along her scalp while she choked out her anguish against his chest, wiping her face on his shirt. Her arms had curled under his, her fingers gripping his vest along the center of his back as though the idea that he might let go terrified her.
But he neither released her nor tried to comfort her with what inevitably would have been trivial words--just held her, waiting with as much calm as he could muster for her composure to return. He'd seen more destruction than a starship exploding--more carnage, not as clean either. Yet the image of the silver vessel blasting apart as they fled...
Over a hundred and fifty people dead. Out here, no way to notify their families. And they were all probably going to die tomorrow.
"Oh, god," she moaned and lifted her head, letting her hands fall.
He closed his eyes and opened them, and suddenly they were both in control again. They wiped their faces, straightened their clothing, inspected one another quickly. Her hair was disarranged and the front of his shirt showed distinct wet spots, but no one in the overworked engine room was likely to notice.
"Resume," he said evenly, and the lift took them there. She reached out and clasped his hand tightly until they stopped.
The next scene is in engineering where they figure out what lousy shape his ship's in and inform everyone that they're all probably going to die. I'm cutting it because it was incomplete, though I gave Seska some zingers...she wants to pilfer stuff from Voyager's wreckage, he can't stand it. Torres is angry with him for being too fatalistic. Janeway's too numb to contribute much other than her agreement with Seska that they should see what's in the wreckage.
Chakotay did not speak until they reached the upper deck. "I'm going to ask Tuvok to give you his quarters."
"Don't do that. He's a Vulcan, he needs privacy to meditate."
"I don't have empty space right now anywhere on the ship, and under the circumstances I don't want to ask anyone else to move. They've lost enough."
"I agree. Isn't there someone I can share with?"
"You want to share?"
"It'll be the least of the sacrifices..."
"I'm not going to make you do that." An idea struck him. "My quarters are the largest on the ship. I think you should stay there for now--I'll sleep on the couch in the living area."
"That's not necessary."
Chakotay realized that he wanted badly to know she was just in the next room. "It makes sense from another standpoint. The security on this ship is minimal, but no one will bother you in my quarters." He held her eyes until she nodded. They were nearly there already, he escorted her through the door. She took a few steps in and stopped, waiting for him. "Sorry about the mess."
"Not at all."
"I wanted to thank you. For letting Paris come back to get me, before."
"The risk was his to take." She swallowed, moved into the arch between the living and sleeping areas, glanced back at him, hesitating. "Where will you be?"
"I want to rest for a minute. There's a door in that panel if you want privacy."
"No." The word burst out fiercely, surprising him. She must have been steeling herself to be left alone, and the possibility that he wouldn't leave her after all had cracked her composure.
Chakotay wondered for a moment whether he wanted to be alone, and knew at once that he did not. Even if he had it in him to meditate right now, to summon his animal guide, he wanted to be with her. Tightness rose in his chest, partly protective, partly something very like longing. "Let's just sit together?" Not looking at her, the inquiry neutral. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that nothing was hidden on her face: desolation, loneliness, acute need. His hand extended toward her and pulled her slowly to his side as they took the few steps toward the bed.
Then somehow their arms went around each other and they lay back, holding one another as they had done in the turbolift, no sobbing this time but the same burning grief. She seized him they way she had earlier, her fingers clutching his clothes as if she feared he would dematerialize; he tightened his grip around her, wrapped a leg over hers to pin her against him. Her face pressed tightly against his chest, breathing deeply, almost like she needed to smell him to reassure herself that he was alive.
If she had been on her ship when it exploded, the situation would be no different. He remembered her questions to the old man on the Array, her concentration in the Ocampa underground, her knowledge and experience were probably vast and invaluable but they would certainly not be alive long enough to need them. As soon as the Kazon returned, they were all going out in a flash of light like Voyager. He did not know why the thought that she might have died earlier--with her crew, as she seemed to wish--should hurt him so.
He felt her face turn up slightly and looked down into her eyes. Such emptiness there, and such desperation. He closed his own so that he wouldn't have to see.
And then her mouth touched his. Or his touched hers--as he felt her react, he realized that he must have initiated the contact--his entire being ached for her, empathy and desire together. She shifted slightly and he thought she would break the connection, but she only repositioned herself and pulled him to her with a little cry.
He had no idea what possessed him then. He rolled her underneath him, kissing her passionately, rubbing the length of his torso against hers. Her legs parted at the pressure and he found himself rocking with her, burying his face in her neck. A low groan escaped him. Cradled between her thighs, her hips rolling against his, her hands still clutching his back--he fought suddenly to pull his arms out of the vest, it was confining him, she helped him pull it away. Raising himself above her, lifted by her pelvis, he gazed into her eyes again.
"Please," she whispered. He heard other words. Stay with me. Let me hold you. Her hands moved his shirt aside, slipping underneath, fingertips against his skin. His own movements were more deliberate as well. Goddamn Starfleet uniforms. The zipper, the tight sleeves, the turtleneck...he didn't want this much space between them, wanted her entire body warm along the length of his own. Her heel bumped against his back as she raised first one foot and then the other to her hands on either side of him, pulling her boots away. He drew up one knee, removed one of his own boots, then the other. A twinge in the leg, the one which had almost gotten him killed on the stairs in the cavern, which her doctor had repaired after she had sent her crewman after him. All gone, all dead now. Her hands pulled at his belt. Kicking, working the pants down as he pulled the rest of her uniform out of the way. She helped him yank the shirt over his own head, toss it down.
Skin against skin, soft, proof of life in the goosebumps and the tiny hairs and the fragrance. No time. They could all be dead in a few minutes, in an hour: there might be another plasma leak in engineering, the Kazon might be closing with reinforcements. His weight held her legs apart, she rolled her belly under his until her sex slid slick and hot up the length of his erection. Her head tilted back, he dropped his lips against her throat. The motion pushed him forward and she arched as he moved, parting around him, taking him inside her.
No time, no way to slow it down. For her either, short staccato cries as he thrust and she bucked beneath him. All of him gathering in his chest and his lower back and his legs, he was groaning loudly enough to be heard in the hall, he couldn't help it, the pressure funneling into his groin, swelling and swelling and unmistakable gratification in her voice as she shrieked and he felt the heat enveloping him--not wanting it to end, if only there were some way they could remain joined like this until the blast of light that would end it all, here it comes here it comes--his life overflowing into her. A shout of affirmation in the darkness.
Then she was shuddering under him, his chest drenching with sweat while his heart pounded, the shock crowded out by shame and gratitude and something even more overwhelming. Her fingernails ripped the skin of his back, her legs wrapped over his to prevent him from withdrawing. He pushed down against the mattress with his fists, burrowing until he could slide his arms under her all the way around, cupping a hip and shoulderblade in opposite hands. No regret, except at how quick it had been. Her body still knotted with tension, not the relaxation that follows slow, thorough release. He began to knead her back, gently at first like a caress, then more strongly when her muscles shifted and curved against his palms. She let her legs slide down his in the damp sheen that had collected between them. He disconnected from her, riding the gush of wetness.
She lay still, not passive but waiting, her arms still locked around him as he lifted himself up to look at her face. Frightened, confused. Trusting. "I feel like I've gone completely insane," she whispered.
"I've heard that wanting to do this is a natural reaction to grief..." he said. And stopped. For him that was only part of the story. Should he tell her what he'd been repressing since he met her? But it wasn't only attraction, an odd kind of fate. If she were not a Starfleet captain and he were not a Maquis leader, if they had undertaken this mission together without the boundaries, putting their fates in one another's hands...
He had a sudden image of blowing up his ship to save hers, taking his own fate and that of his crew on that faith.
"You should go see how your crew is doing. They'll need you right now." Not meant to chide, but in kindness: she was trying not to be selfish. Laying his nose against her chin, he summoned words.
"Please stay while I'm gone."
"I don't have anywhere to go."
He felt stabbing pain in his chest on top of the exhaustion. "I'm--I have to go to the bridge, to make sure--that they contact me when the Kazon come back." His arms clutched her tightly for a moment. "I'll sleep on the couch if you want. Whatever makes you more comfortable. But--it would mean a lot if you wanted to stay with me."
She met his eyes. "I'll be here when you get back."
Letting go of her was agony. Chakotay did not want to leave his quarters; he could not shake the irrational fear that she would disappear, or hurt herself, or flee if he left. Nonetheless he tore himself away and quickly toured his ship. The bridge was quiet. Tuvok sat at his usual post as if he had never left it, inquiring as to the state of engineering and the damage to the weapons. "How is Captain Janeway?" the Vulcan asked neutrally.
Chakotay could smell her still, the sweetness of her hair and the spice of her skin. "About as well as could be expected. Hopefully asleep." Tuvok nodded shortly. "How are you?"
"I am a Vulcan. I am not affected..." Tuvok began. Chakotay cut him off.
"I'm in no mood to discuss your lack of emotion, or even to tell you what I think of you betraying us the way you did. I'm leaving the bridge to you. The minute the Kazon are back in the vicinity or the warp drive comes online, I want to know about it. Understood?"
"Yes, sir." Chakotay noted that he did not feel real anger toward his once and again colleague; in fact, he felt very comfortable leaving the ship in Tuvok's hands. The Vulcan would never betray Janeway, and, odd as it was, he suspected that the Vulcan would never again betray him. What had happened a day ago, a lifetime ago, changed little.
The engine room looked much as it had earlier: chaos. Torres would probably work through the night, despite her depletion from the alien illness. Ordering her to rest would only make her angry. The room kept blurring before his eyes as he made comments and suggestions, complimented his crew. Seska gave him a sharp glare as he passed her but said nothing.
They were guessing twenty hours before the warp capacity and weapons systems could be repaired. Judging by how quickly they'd called for reinforcements during the earlier conflict, the Kazon would probably be back in less than five.
Finally he returned to his quarters, frightened of what he might find there.
Kathryn Janeway was still in his bed, one arm thrown over a pillow. Her breath squeaked when she inhaled as if she had been crying before she fell asleep. The golden hair was down and covered most of her visible body. Chakotay stood and watched her, leaning against the doorframe for balance. When he swayed so far that he stumbled, he finally sat down on the bed and removed his boots.
He curled against her back, resting his hands lightly on her abdomen as he kissed the top of her spine. Then he began to stroke down her thighs and up to her breasts, not touching them, examining with his hands the different textures of the skin on her waist and belly and legs. Spread thin over the hip bones, thick and hard over her thigh muscles, soft and pliant below her middle. Beautiful.
A soft murmur as she awoke, tried to turn. Trapping her with his leg, he wrapped his lips around her neck where it joined her shoulder and kneaded with his chin until he felt the stiffness relax. Her hand reached back to pull his arm around her, pressing his fist between her breasts. Exhaustion hit him suddenly; he did not think he could move to roll away. Nor did he think he could stand to be out of contact with her. He shifted his weight very slightly to the side and closed his eyes. For the first time since he had been flung into the quadrant, he slept willingly.
There's a scene here where Chakotay and Seska fight about redistributing power on the ship, then the two of them with Torres and Janeway in engineering, Janeway and Torres fighting over the scientific implications of what they're trying to do, then another Chakotay and Tuvok scene on the bridge where they start to realize the Kazon aren't bothering to come back for them. Seska has been yelling at Chakotay, Janeway mostly taking her side on the fuel issue but sort of surprised by the tone of the exchange.
"Why do you let them talk to you that way?"
"Things in the Maquis don't always operate according to Starfleet protocol," he snapped with more than a hint of annoyance. "B'Elanna may not be polite about how she tells me things, but she's usually right. And Seska's been...my friend."
Her eyes widened at his hesitation. "Is she your lover?" Janeway asked bluntly.
"She was. Not any more." He looked at her, suddenly apologetic. "Not for a long time. It wasn't serious, I never should have--look, a lot of things are different here than they would have been in Starfleet."
Not meant as a rebuke, yet she took it as such. "I'm sorry. It's really not my business."
"Yes, it is. This is your ship too now, you may as well know where things stand." Better that she find out now, from him. He swallowed and then spoke before he could overanalyze the instinct he followed. "On this ship, the command structure is pretty loose. We never expected to have to plan long-term strategies." Her expression was puzzled. "People sort of take turns being project leaders. For the most part the engineers answer to Torres, the strategy teams to Tuvok, the support systems to Ayala, and the three of them report to me. I can't really ask you to join their ranks because I can't tell you what your duties would be--and it's too soon to assume my crew would follow your orders, anyway. But we don't have many trained scientists aboard, we need someone who can serve as science officer."
That part was easy enough. She nodded understanding, but he held up a hand. "That's not what I wanted to ask you, though. I've been thinking. Maybe it would be a good idea to reevaluate the command structure, since it looks like we're going to be out here for a long time. I don't have anywhere near your experience. I'm going to need your input without having to worry about trying to set up formal rank." There it was. "I can't offer you anything official--" He took a deep breath. "Will you serve with me, Janeway?"
Her stare and the drop of her jaw made him think for a moment that he'd made a terrible mistake, asking her to join a Maquis crew, he must have been crazy. "You mean under you?"
He hadn't thought of it in those terms, but her query brought clear what he was envisioning. He had to work his lips for a moment before he could put breath to the syllables.
"I mean exactly what I said. Beside me."
She took his hand and gripped it, nodding fiercely. He'd expected regret to hit once the commitment was made, but instead exhilaration flooded him. It must have shown in his face, because she threw her arms around him, exhaling in relief which turned to laughter. His body responded instantly to the closeness. "I'm glad she's not your lover," Janeway murmured, grinding her hips into him suggestively. He caught her half-smile as she moved a hand between them to tear impulsively at his belt.
"If you pull my pants down every time I get hard from being near you, we're never going to get any work done."
"Then we'll stop," she promised, pushing him back to the wall, dropping to her knees and taking him in her mouth before he could ask her whether she meant stop working or stop loving spontaneously like this, she didn't stop even when he warned her and tried to pull away and finally threaded his fingers through her hair to hold her head gently while he came, panting hard to keep from crying out.
When he looked down she was gazing up at him, eyes shining in her flushed face. He drew her to her feet, sweaty with the need to reciprocate. "Let's go in the other room."
"In the middle of a shift? We have to get to the bridge." Her surprise was sincere. He laughed and hugged her in helpless delight. "I can wait. Oh--I should brush my teeth."
"Then we're already going to be late," he laughed again. Kissing her, tasting the evidence of his pleasure in her mouth, sweet and bitter and salty, he nudged her toward the bed.
She let him lay her down and pull her pants away. He rested his face against her thigh, basking in the warmth and the scent and the way she twitched forward when he exhaled hard against her. Finally he kissed her and felt her hands straining to grab his head, trying to hold him there, while she raised her legs and lunged toward him with her lower body. "I thought you could wait?" he hissed against her in amusement, never removing his lips, letting his tongue roll into her. A faint negative groan met his query as she heaved, silencing him.
Was either of them ever going to last more than two minutes? Not this time, she was already pressing him in a steady rhythm, her hips directing him, straight lines and then circles. He buried a finger in the heat. She slammed herself into his face and cried out in time with her bucking, her legs rigid against the sides of his head, hands making scratching noises on the sheet. Already hard again, he let her relax almost completely and then lapped at the wetness, causing her to writhe and shriek. Letting all his muscles go limp, he was enjoying himself almost obscenely.
"You learn fast," she gasped.
"This is how I break in all my new officers. Except the Nausicaans -- the men are too big and the women have teeth down there." She exploded into raucous laughter. "I thought Tuvok told you." He could feel her giggling, shaking under him, could feel the moment the laughter went over the edge and changed into racking shudders.
Pulling himself up quickly, he grabbed her by the shoulders. Her eyes were dry but she was sobbing, her expression panicked as she gasped for breath. "Don't do this," he yanked her upright. "Janeway." He grabbed her chin, forced her eyes to meet his, "Stay with me," wondering in horror if he was going to have to sedate her, her hands were fighting off his arms, she was close to cracking up. "Dammit," he said forcefully. There was a bottle of ale on one of his shelves, a present from a member of his crew who hadn't known he didn't drink, which he'd held onto as a memento. He grabbed it down, pulled out the stopper and turned it upside down over her head.
It worked; she fell silent, staring up at him tremulously as the liquor poured down the side of her face, narrowly missing her eyes.
"Sorry about that," he said.
She nodded, pushing her hair back from her face as the tears began to overflow, but at least she was herself again. He dropped the almost-empty bottle and sat, pulling her against him and whispering "It's OK," at a loss for any other words.
"I can't just shut it off..." she said finally.
"I know. We've both been doing too much of that. Assuming we're going to die so it doesn't matter. But all this that we've been talking about--we've been talking like we expect to make it. That changes everything."
"I'm not ready..." He felt her begin to shiver. He didn't know whether it was a good sign or a bad sign.
"Neither am I." He wondered whether he would have been better off with nonsense endearments and words of comfort. She looked at him and let herself dissolve into weeping, wrapping her arms around herself until he pulled them open and drew her to him. "We'll be OK. With Tuvok and the others." Her tears were getting to him again--he'd done more public bawling in the past two days than in the past two years. A few days ago, in a different timeline, he never would have believed that he could under any circumstances find himself crying on a Starfleet captain's shoulder. Much less falling in love with one.
All right, he'd admitted it. For her it might be just desperation, she'd lost so many, other than Tuvok he was the only one she knew at all and the Vulcan had no emotions. She hadn't become a captain by accident, she might push him away hard when she no longer needed him. Or, worse, she might break up when the reality of their situation sank in, and in his current state he might go down with her.
How had he let this happen?
"Kathryn, I'm scared," he whispered. Her hand moved to caress the side of his face that was not buried against her. They held one another for a long time.
The door buzzed. Chakotay straightened, remembering that she still had no clothes on below the waist. "Stay here," he said quietly and walked out into the living area, pulling the inner door closed behind him. "Come," he called, and Tuvok stiffly entered his quarters.
"I believe we should discuss strategy, and I thought it might be wise to talk away from the rest of the crew..." The Vulcan's voice broke off abruptly as he inhaled loudly, and Chakotay realized that alcohol had dripped all over his clothing.
"Oh, you did? Just what's on your mind, Tuvok?"
"In light of the facts at our disposal, I believe we must conclude that the Kazon have no immediate plans to return to attack this ship. Therefore, it would seem that the procurement of resources rather than defense has become our primary concern. It is highly unlikely that this ship and its crew will survive a journey back to the Alpha Quadrant if we do not find some extraordinary means of transport. It would seem logical to begin a plan..." The inner door opened and Janeway came into the room. "Go on, Tuvok." Tuvok glanced at Chakotay for a moment, and the Maquis commander could not help feeling a sense of pride: Tuvok was going to obey his commands on this ship, even if they conflicted with Janeway's. "Your captain andd I have been discussing--formalizing the command structure," he told the Vulcan. "I have no idea how this is going to work, but I think for right now you can assume that anything which you'd say to one of us, you can say to the other." He looked at Janeway, smiling wryly. "Am I right?"
"Yes." She moved to stand by him.
Tuvok raised an eyebrow at her in surprise, but not, Chakotay thought, in displeasure. Then he looked back at Chakotay. "You are considering instituting Starfleet protocol?"
"Not Starfleet." He jumped too quickly, his voice raising slightly, and saw Janeway give the Vulcan a sharp look. "But I don't know how long the Maquis way will work for us out here. Some of our more aggressive people--Seska, Dalby, Suder--are going to have to learn some discipline or we're all going to be at one another's throats. And as you said, we're facing a very serious resource problem."
"Tuvok was an Academy instructor for sixteen years," Janeway said quietly. "He'd be a good person to instill some ideas in the crew."
"There's one problem. I don't think anyone on this ship is going to trust you right now, Tuvok." It was his turn to receive a sharp glance from Janeway, but she had to realize that he was right. "My people out there would not be happy knowing that I was in here consulting with the two of you. We have to be very careful how we proceed. Anything too sudden and we're going to have serious personnel hostility."
Chakotay felt a sudden, dizzying sense of disorientation. His friends below deck--Torres and Bandera and Ayala--seemed very far away. Stranded out here decades from his home and his people, the haphazard system he served without meaning, he found himself turning to two people from the organization he had disavowed--a man who had served under him yet schemed to turn him in, a woman who had been sent to arrest him yet had become his lover. "Captain," he heard the one say, looking at the other's damp hair, "have you and the commander been consuming illegal ale together?"
Chakotay began to chortle in spite of himself and Janeway grabbed his arm. "Don't you start." But she was suppressing a smile, so they stood together snickering while the Vulcan stared. "That wasn't part of how you break in your officers?" She didn't remove her hand from his arm and he pulled her against him as he broke into loud laughter, conscious of but impervious to the Vulcan's stare.
"Perhaps we should all go to the Bridge," Tuvok said, sounding utterly mystified by their behavior, and Chakotay nodded.
"Good idea." He had a sudden image of Janeway linking her hand through Tuvok's arm as well, and the three of them striding through the halls like that; his guffaw was uncontrollable, and he slapped a hand to his face before it continued. "I have to change my clothes. And you," he turned to Janeway, "have to get cleaned up." She nodded and withdrew to the back room. "Go on, Tuvok," Chakotay said. "I'm going to wait for her to brush her teeth."
Tuvok's raised eyebrow only made him laugh louder.
Much later, after lots of scenes shoring up the ship--guest appearances by Ayala, Dalby, Geron, Henley, Chell, Jarvin, Suder, Michael Jonas, Hogan, and Kurt Bandera:
"Commander, surely you are aware that there are unbecoming rumors about yourself and Captain Janeway. She has been sharing your quarters for an inordinately long period of time, and there are many among your crew who resent her position on this ship. I believe that it would be in everyone's best interests if you attempted to dissociate yourselves from those rumors by taking steps to stop them."
"Tuvok, we're not operating under Starfleet protocol. You can pretend it's the crew you're concerned about, but you and I both know that it's her, isn't it? You never seemed concerned about me and Seska, and there were a lot more grumblings then because she made sure people knew about it."
"The situation was somewhat different when we were in the Maquis."
"Look, I don't know whether this whole argument is because you've lost the Kathryn Janeway you knew who was above it all, but it's nothing compared to what I'm going to lose." He felt the pain solidify in his chest as he looked into the granite eyes. "You don't have to worry about protecting her from my corrupting influence. I thought you'd know me well enough to realize that I'd never take advantage of her."
"I did not mean to imply that I mistrusted your sincerity. It is your judgment that I question."
"I could say the same. None of this is any of your business."
"That is not precisely true. Under the circumstances in which we find ourselves, anything which influences the state of mind of the command crew is relevant to my tactical decisions. Commander, what did you mean, what you're going to lose?"
"Tuvok, would you please call me Chakotay? The titles don't mean anything here, and I don't think you're helping Janeway any when you call her 'Captain.'"
"I apologize." Tuvok looked surprised, then chastened, which made him seem more human; Chakotay sighed.
"You do know what I mean. When she recovers from everything that's happened, she's not going to want to play second fiddle to a Starfleet dropout who joined the Maquis. That's the kind of personnel problem you should worry about."
"I believe you underestimate her. And yourself."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Tuvok looked as if he were making a decision. "If I understand you correctly...you have personal feelings for her, do you not?"
The bluntness of the question hit like a blow. Chakotay had to take several steps away and turn his back before he could compose himself enough to speak. There was no point in lying, not to the Vulcan and not to himself.
"I love her."
Tuvok remained silent, and Chakotay didn't want to turn to see his expression.
"So, tell me I'm unworthy and my actions have only served to bring her down to my own level. Remind me of where I'd be if we'd ended up on her ship instead of mine."
The silence dragged. Chakotay could sense Tuvok's mental cataloguing at his confession. The Vulcan would know now beyond a shadow of doubt the precise nature of the relationship between his two superiors--his worst fears realized, Chakotay supposed. Tuvok would be thinking back over the events since she had come on board his ship, would undoubtedly accuse him of using her weakness for his own purposes and suggest that it would be his own fault when she came to her senses. He braced himself for the condemnation.
Then Tuvok surprised him. "I do not believe that she would have permitted your relationship to develop as it has if she did not have similar feelings for you--Chakotay." Chakotay glanced back up. Once again the dark eyes were troubled, conflicted.
"Come here. I want to show you something."
He led her to the ladder which ascended from the deck with the crew quarters; she had asked him from time to time about the storage space which the ship's specs indicated as the destination of the ladder, but he hadn't told her then. He watched her face as she climbed carefully, reaching the top and the door which had to be opened by a manual hatch.
A small room, mostly empty, with a window at the top of the back wall.
Inside were stars. The light streaming in from the viewport, miniscule, glittering.
"What is this?" she asked in delight.
"It's a storage compartment. I used to come up here to think. When I needed to be alone. It's been empty since we took all the spare parts out when we got stuck in this quadrant, I don't think anyone else ever uses it. I was wondering whether you wanted it."
"It's sort of out of the way for an office."
"I meant for your quarters. You must be getting tired of sharing everything with me." Her expression darkened perceptibly. "Otherwise, I'll move up here," he offered. "You can stay down there. It probably makes more sense anyway for you to be on the crew deck..."
She crossed her arms and wandered to the window, looking out at the stars, shaking her head.
"What?" he asked finally.
"I think that should be my question." Her voice was low and uneven. "Do you want to tell me what's wrong, or is it my job to guess?"
"What are you talking about?"
"What are you talking about?" She whirled, and even in the dimness he wanted to kick himself for causing the hurt on her face. "You've been pulling away from me for days. Weeks, actually. I reach out to you, you find an excuse for jumping back. Is this what you planned all along--to get me back on my feet and then run away as soon as you were sure I could stand it?"
He'd made his own worst fears true through his actions. "You don't understand..." he began lamely, but she shook her head.
"You're right, I don't understand. I thought this was what you wanted. Being together, working together. It was the one thing in this universe I could count on." Her voice broke. "Well, Chakotay, it's your ship. Where do you want to sleep?"
He couldn't speak for several moments, so he dropped to his knees and buried his face against her. She stood unresponsively, so he dragged her down to the floor with him, clinging to her much the way she'd gripped him these past weeks whenever she was lost and terrified--as if she might dematerialize at any moment. "Chakotay, what is going on?" she gasped. "You're hurting me--"
He tried to loosen his grip, but his body would not obey him. "Can't let go," he managed. "Sorry--I thought you wanted space..."
"Not from you!" She caught his head in both her hands. "Is that what you've been..." The ferocity with which he pulled her to him frightened even him, but he was powerless to stop himself; he couldn't speak, he could only hope she understood this time. "It's OK," she whispered. A sound tore itself from his throat. He kissed her hard, hands all over her, trying to say with his body what he couldn't seem to get past his lips. She let him begin to make frantic love to her there on the floor, trying to keep up with him, then held him when the shakes caught him in the middle.
When he finally got control of himself, lying on the floor with her hands stroking his hair, he could finally her what he'd confessed to Tuvok earlier:
"I love you."
"I love you. Did you really doubt it?"
Later, when they were back in his quarters downstairs, hands touching as they read supply reports, he said, "We could both move up there."
"You don't think the crew might resent that? Us living on a different deck..."
"...in an empty hold, so some of them can have more space? We could free up room for two people down here. B'Elanna and Seska wouldn't have to share anymore. I don't think the crew would resent that any more than they already resent..."
"...what everyone probably knows at this point." She nodded slowly. "No light but the stars. I could learn to like that." They smiled at one another. He lowered his head against hers, planning to kiss her quickly on the temple. But a phrase from years earlier rose unbidden in his mind, and on impulse he pressed his lips against her ear, blowing gently. She bucked wildly and nearly squealed.
"I had no idea you were so ticklish," he murmured in delight and did it again, more slowly this time, trapping her in his arms as her body thrashed against him. He flicked his tongue behind her ear, at the juncture where it met her neck, and she squirmed helplessly, making a sound between laughing and crying.
"Stop, stop...I'm going to wet my pants..."
"You don't scare me," he caught his thumbs in her armpits and wriggled them while she shrieked, twisting, then grabbed his sides and began to tickle back. He tried to pin her arms unsuccessfully and settled for pinching her rear while her eyes filled with glee as she slipped a hand under his shirt to tease his nipples. Letting himself slide to the floor, he caught her on top of him and eased a hand into her crotch.
"What did you do that for?"
"This?" His fingers began to move against her, feeling her hot and moist even through layers of clothing.
"Noooooo...blowing in my ear...aaaah..."
He slowed for a moment, embarrassed. "It was something I once heard my father say to my mother. 'Blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere.'"
She smiled, enchanted. "Did he?"
"Did he what?"
"Follow her anywhere." Her expression was earnest, so he answered her seriously.
"Actually, no. He never followed anyone but himself."
"Maybe that's not what he meant."
"I don't understand."
"Did your parents have a happy marriage?"
"Yes. I mean, they were frustrated with one another a lot of the time. Different goals. But they loved each other."
She leaned over and breathed into his ear, less a gust than a sigh, and he wrapped his arms around her. Then she cackled and he laughed aloud with her as she began to tickle him again, unable to stop even when he became aware that his door had slid open and a figure stood in the corridor, watching.
"Seska," he managed to say, beginning to nudge Janeway to the side until he realized that without her body guarding him, his erection would be all too evident. Janeway brought herself under control at once, straightening so that she looked regal and unashamed despite the position they had been caught in. The Bajoran looked at her with unreadable eyes.
"I wanted to discuss the rerouting of the photon tubes. When you have a moment. Sir." Only then did Seska's eyes move to Chakotay's, and her expression no longer seemed neutral.
Claire wanted to know what happened during the crossover on this side, for reference for the end of "Extrapolations."
"The shuttle's docked," Harry said with relief in his voice. "I hope she..."
"Janeway to Bridge."
Hearing her voice made him feel much better. But there was something not right with the query--that was what it was, it sounded like a question, not an order--he rose uneasily as he answered, "Chakotay here, Captain."
"Chakotay." A gasp of emotion which made the hair rise on the back of his neck. A long pause while the entire bridge crew stared at him. "Could you come down here, please, right away?"
Again, a request, not an order--no use of his title, and that strange sound in her voice. What's wrong? he wanted to ask, and heard her answer from earlier: Not now. Please. "On my way, Captain. Tuvok, you have the bridge. Notify me immediately if there's any change in the anomaly."
He found her standing with her back to him, her hand tightly gripping the hatch release to the little ship. "Are you all right?" he asked, instinct warning him not to distance her by using her title. She turned. Her face was ashen, her eyes wild, looking him over and then staring past him before studying him again as if he were a stranger.
"Chakotay..." she whispered.
He could not have been more nervous had she called for a red alert. "What is it? What happened to you out there?"
"I don't know," she answered. Still a whisper. "That uniform on you..." He glanced down at himself. Everything appeared to be in order.
"What happened to your ship?" she demanded suddenly, accusing.
"My ship?" What could she mean? "Voyager is fine. We didn't experience any major effects from the anomaly." No response. "Our ship is fine."
Then she drew in a hard breath, comprehension replacing the confusion on her face. "If Voyager is here, your ship must have done something to the Kazon to stop them...you must have been the one stranded on the Array..."
"I think we'd better get you to sickbay."
As he moved to take her arm, she intercepted him, catching both his elbows in her hands. "No. I understand now. Chakotay--I'm not who you think I am. I'm Kathryn Janeway, but I'm not the captain of this ship. I don't know how, but I seem to have switched places with her in this universe..."
And abruptly, everything she had said fell into place. "If Voyager is here..."
He took a long breath. "Who are you, over there?"
"I'm...serving on your crew. We renamed the ship. Tuvok and I were the only ones left from Voyager."
"Because you were on the Array when..." A horrible picture rose in his mind, but he quickly put it aside. "What happened to my crew?" he asked instead.
"They were all on your ship. You beamed us aboard before right before Voyager..." She looked around the room again, lost. "How did they stop the warp core breach?" she demanded, voice rough with grief.
"It never happened, in this universe. I beamed the Maquis crew over here and then destroyed my ship to keep the Kazon from closing on Voyager." It occurred to him that he should not be telling her this--contamination across universes was prohibited by the Prime Directive, he knew the story of James T. Kirk all too well. "Captain--" She reacted visibly. "What do I call you, in your universe?"
"You call me Kathryn." She met his eyes. Meaning fired across her features, he understood instantly--then, "Oh! You meant--on duty he calls me Janeway." Selfconsciousness momentarily crowded out the horror on her face. He gulped hard, swallowing down the next question. That pronoun shift. He was not her Chakotay.
And the heart-stopping fact sank in: his captain was gone. If this double was here, then she was missing.
"I can't go to the bridge," she said suddenly. "Even if you thought I should pretend to be her, I can't face those people as if nothing ever happened." She swayed back against the door of the little craft and for a moment he thought she would leap inside it, try to escape.
He reacted without letting himself feel anything, putting one arm around her and hitting his comm badge with the other. "Chakotay to transporter room two. Beam the captain and myself directly to my quarters." The order was probably going to come back to haunt him--he could hardly have done anything more likely to start gossip--but he had no idea how many people were in Sickbay, and he did not know whether she felt up to facing his Janeway's belongings, nor whether it would be proper to treat his captain's things as though she and the parallel were interchangeable.
They dissolved together in the beam.
She moved away from him and wiped her eyes when they materialized, looking around his quarters, then pacing away from him.
"Not much, I know. Almost everything I had was destroyed with my ship."
"They're bigger than your quarters were on that ship," she said absently, reaching a hand toward his medicine bundle and then freezing as she realized what she had done. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right. She's seen it." But his voice was tight, wondering: what would his captain be discussing, right now, with this Kathryn Janeway's version of himself? Was his captain pretending to be this double? Surely her Chakotay would notice, and surely she would trust him with the truth. Right now he needed to talk to Torres, to Tuvok, to figure out how to get his Captain back...
The woman she might have been turned suddenly, alarmed. "I don't think I can transfer the command codes to someone else. I'm sure they've been changed several times..." She whirled again, looking at everything anew. "These were Cavit's quarters. Deck three, I recognize the layout."
"I seem to have forgotten to introduce myself." He held out a hand wryly. "Commander Chakotay, first officer of the starship Voyager. The rank's a field commission, of course, given to me by Captain Kathryn Janeway." She took his hand, staring. "I promise you, it isn't a trick. But we should talk to Tuvok so you can be sure. And B'Elanna, to see if she can figure out what happened."
"Torres works for your captain?"
"She's the chief engineer of this ship." Again the momentary surprise on her face--not doubt. He hit his comm badge. "Chakotay to Tuvok. Would you meet me at my quarters, please?" B'Elanna might have to tell Harry, so that he could work with her on the problem of the crossover, but he didn't want to subject Janeway to having to see Ensign Kim right now...
"You'll have to tell Seska. She knows a great deal about manipulating subspace fields to intersect one another."
He blinked. "Seska's...not here." Should he--no. She seemed to read the decision on his face. He couldn't tell her, nor could he ask about his crew on her side. "More than you?" he asked instead.
"I'm a scientist, not an engineer. I can hypothesize what happened, but we're going to need the technical support from engineering to send me back and retrieve your captain."
"You're his science officer?" It made sense. He'd had no need for a first officer in the Maquis, and stranded in the Delta Quadrant he certainly would need a scientist. Good; she could work with them on the problem of the crossover without violating her position over there.
"Yes," she said, but she was shaking her head, and her tone was negative. "I'm his...partner. Not in title but in practice."
She stopped, looking away. When their eyes met again, she wore the same look as she had in the hangar: You call me Kathryn.
Burning envy for his double crackled through every fiber of his being. Then he remembered what had happened to their crew.