'This story is archived at JCFicHaven without the author's permission'
Notes: A different sort of ‘stuck-in-a-turbolift’ story with angst galore. J/C/7
By Mary S.
Kathryn Janeway slipped out of the main ballroom where the official welcome home party was in full swing. She was exhausted, with a raging headache, which had been exacerbated by constant smiling and never-ending congratulations from all and sundry. She walked slowly to the turbolift, head hanging now there was no one to see, and as a result, crashed straight into Seven of Nine, who, apparently, was also waiting for the lift. Her head snapped up in shock and surprise.
“Seven! Sorry! I wasn’t watching…” Her voice trailed off, and she began to retreat. She most definitely did not want to see Seven right now, not when she’d just spent the entire evening trying very hard not to show anything but unmitigated delight at the sight of her first officer – former first officer, she corrected herself – with his arm draped possessively around the woman.
She opened her mouth to excuse herself, but before she could say anything, backed smack into a warm, solid object, which grunted a protest.
“Hey, Kathryn! Careful!” came Chakotay’s voice from right behind her.
Damn! Damn! Damn!
He grabbed her arm to keep her upright. “Are you leaving already?”
She spun around, trying to keep her composure in place. “I…have some work to do yet, reports, that sort of thing, you know….” She was babbling, tossing out excuses at random, anything to keep herself from blurting out the real reason for her precipitate departure. As she spoke, she tried to ease her way past him, avoiding his eyes, looking anywhere but at the two of them. But his hand holding on to her arm stopped her and she was forced to stand still.
His other hand reached for her chin, tilting it up so he could see her face. His eyes were filled with concern and when he spoke, his voice was soft.
“Headache?” he asked.
She nodded slightly. He peered at her a moment longer, as if looking for another reason, and she had to fight to stay in control of her emotions. Despite herself, her eyes began to fill, so that she had to yank her head out of his grasp, and look at the floor.
His hand fell to her shoulder, squeezing it for a moment, before he stepped back to stand beside Seven, who had remained silent throughout the exchange.
The lift doors chose that moment to open, and the pair turned to step inside. Kathryn hesitated, not wanting to join them, but Chakotay held the door open until she had no choice but to follow. The doors hissed closed and she blurted out “Main”.
Seven glanced over at her. “I thought you were going back to work,” she remarked in her cool tones.
“I will,” Kathryn replied, defensively. Blasted drone! Why couldn’t she leave her alone? She wrapped her arms around herself, then became aware of her actions and deliberately dropped her hands to her sides. She could feel Chakotay’s eyes on her and knew he was trying to figure out the real reason she was upset. He would, too. He knew her far too well, knew all her mannerisms; he could read her like a book. She clenched her teeth, silently ordering the lift to hurry up before she gave herself away any further.
There was a sudden jolt, a bang, followed by another jolt, which knocked them all to their knees. The lights flickered, then dimmed to emergency lighting as all motion stopped.
Kathryn hit her combadge. “Janeway to Security at Starfleet Headquarters.”
She started to tap her badge again, when a slightly breathless voice answered. “Security here.”
She spoke in her most authoritative tones. “This is Captain Janeway. The turbolift I’m in is stuck.”
“Yes, Captain. All the lifts have stopped. There’s been a massive power failure. The grid for the entire building has gone down.”
Kathryn sighed. “I don’t suppose you can tell me…”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. We’ll get you out as soon as we can, but I have no idea how long it will be.”
“Very well. Janeway out.”
She sat down and leaned against the wall, closing her eyes and rubbing them as her headache worsened. Of all the luck!
The pair beside her also sank to the floor, Chakotay sitting between the two women. Kathryn tried to edge away slightly, but there wasn’t much room and she couldn’t go very far. He caught her movement and frowned, then reached out to brush her hand.
“You okay?” he asked.
She was tempted to scream that no, she wasn’t okay at all, but habit kicked in and she muttered, “I’m fine.” They both knew it was a lie, but for the moment he accepted it, not wanting to force her.
They sat in silence for uncounted minutes.
Chakotay’s arm was wrapped tightly around Seven’s shoulders, holding her close to his side, but his eyes were focused on Kathryn. In the dim lighting, it was hard to see, but he thought he caught a glimpse of a tear on her face. She was hurting, he could tell, which bothered him a lot more than he would have expected.
It was Seven who spoke first, obviously attempting to make polite conversation, as the doctor had taught her. “Have you decided yet what you are going to do now that we’re home, Captain?”
Kathryn bit her lip, trying to respond pleasantly despite the pounding in her head. “Not really, no. Take some leave, I guess, go and visit my sister.”
“I was sorry to hear of your mother’s death,” continued Seven, as Kathryn clenched her teeth even harder, willing the drone to shut up.
God, she didn’t need the reminder of that loss on top of everything else! She gripped her hands together, the nails biting into her palms as she tried to maintain control.
Chakotay nudged Seven gently. “Seven, I don’t think the captain wants to talk about it right now.”
She looked up at him in some surprise. “I was merely expressing my condolences.”
“Yes, but…” He paused, not sure how to explain that now was not a good time. Kathryn’s body language was positively screaming that she didn’t want to talk, but Seven was quite oblivious. He eased his arm from around her and moved closer to Kathryn.
“Kathryn, want me to rub your neck?”
NO! She was right on the edge. If he touched her now, anywhere, she’d dissolve into tears, and she couldn’t do that. Starfleet captains didn’t cry in front of others – ever. She’d learned that a long time ago.
She straightened and tried to smile. “Thank you, Chakotay, but I’m fine.”
She tapped her combadge again. “Janeway to Security at Starfleet Headquarters.”
She repeated her hail, but the only response was static.
“They’re probably pretty busy right now,” began Chakotay. “They know we’re here, and I’m sure they’re doing their best to get us out.” He patted her arm in reassurance.
She stiffened at the brief touch, and he paused, more puzzled than ever by her reaction. Something was very wrong. He sat back against the wall, debating whether to say anything. If Seven hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have hesitated, but as it was, he suspected Kathryn wouldn’t thank him for questioning her emotional equilibrium in front of someone else. He felt Seven’s hand slide into his and glanced down into her worried face. Her eyes shifted to the captain and she frowned, then spoke.
“Captain, are you ill? Is that why you left the party early? Is there something we can do…?” Her voice trailed off as Kathryn’s head came up, her captain’s glare at full force.
“Thank you, Seven, as I told Chakotay, I’m fine.” The voice was clipped and authoritative, making it clear she had no wish to discuss the matter any further.
Unlike nearly all the rest of the crew, Seven had never been intimidated by the captain – the glare which could strike terror into hapless ensigns, left her quite unmoved. She was concerned, and in typical Borg fashion, plowed straight ahead, unaware that she was running roughshod over her captain’s sensibilities.
“I do not believe you. You are showing every indication of stress and tension. If you wish to discuss what is bothering you…”
She was interrupted by Kathryn’s hiss of fury.
“You want to know what’s bothering me?!” Her voice vibrated with rage. “Fine! One – I’m bone tired, and I’ve got a splitting headache from having to smile and be polite while answering the same stupid questions over and over again! Two – I’ve had it up to here with bureaucratic idiots who presume to question my decisions when they’ve never set foot off-planet in their lives! And three – to top it off, I’m mad as hell that you took away a hope, a-a dream! that kept me going for years!”
Seven gaped in astonishment while beside her, Chakotay cringed. Uh oh!
Kathryn slumped back against the wall, covering her face but unable to stop hot tears from running down her cheeks. She sniffed and turned her back on the other two, horrified by her own words and yet underneath, relieved to have finally spit it out.
Seven turned nervously to Chakotay whose eyes were focused on the woman across from them. He moved to kneel behind her, lightly touching her back.
“Kathryn,” he spoke very softly, in contrast to her strident tones a moment before. “Turn around, talk to me.”
She shook her head wordlessly, refusing to move. He shuffled closer still, until he could enfold her in his arms. One hand slid across her collarbone to grip her shoulder, while the other slowly eased her head back onto his shoulder, then lightly stroked her temple and forehead.
“It’ll be all right, Kathryn. Right now, you’re tired and everything’s going wrong, but it’ll get better.”
She jerked out of his grasp, sitting upright. “Will it, Chakotay?!” she snarled. “How?! Tell me that! Because right now what I see is you and Seven together, and me alone, just like I’ve always been!”
Chakotay’s patience was legendary, but even he had his limits. And Kathryn had hit a nerve. He leaped to his feet, exploding in sudden fury.
“How dare you, you self-centered – ! How dare you accuse me of leaving you! Over six years I waited for you! Six bloody years where you kept me dangling at the end of your string, like a damned puppet!”
His anger evaporated as quickly as it had appeared and he sank to the floor, his voice soft in its despair. “I have tried so hard, Kathryn, to be what you needed, and obviously, I’ve failed. I’m sorry you feel you’ve always been alone because you never were, you still aren’t. I don’t know what else I can do or say.”
Kathryn sat silent, well aware she’d overreacted. How could he know how she felt when she’d never told him, never given the slightest indication that she loved him? She bit her lip, trying now to find the words that somehow, would bring him back to her, at least as a friend.
She lifted her head, stretching out a hand to him. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I know it’s inadequate, but I don’t know what else to say. The truth is, Chakotay, I could not have gotten this crew home without you, your strength, your support, and yes, your love. You didn’t fail me, I failed you.” Her hand dropped and she withdrew as far as she could into the corner. “I wish you and Seven all the happiness in the universe, I hope you have a long and happy life together.”
Chakotay said nothing, feeling numb and confused after the torrent of emotion that had whipped around the turbolift. Kathryn’s words had struck him to the core – he’d been so sure that she wanted nothing more than his friendship and he’d forced himself to accept her decision. Seven’s advances had been a welcome balm to his ego and he hadn’t hesitated to respond positively. It hadn’t occurred to him that in fact, Kathryn was hoping to initiate a more personal relationship once they got home.
She’d never mentioned it, never even hinted at it. But, if she was to be believed now, that was what she’d wanted. He shook his head – why the hell hadn’t she said something, anything?! With only the slightest encouragement, he would have waited, wouldn’t have even looked at Seven or anyone else! But she had kept her emotions under a tight rein, never letting him see what she really felt deep down, what Kathryn felt. He realized, now that he thought about it, that for the last few months, since Quarra, there had been only the captain, never Kathryn.
That had been the turning point for him – after seeing her with Jaffen, he’d given up the last vestige of hope that she might ever love him. It wasn’t going to happen, he’d told himself, and he was a fool to keep dreaming that it might. Time to move on, and build a life without her. Seven’s initial invitation a few weeks later had been most opportune.
He looked up from contemplating the carpet to see Kathryn curled into a tight, miserable ball in one corner, while Seven huddled in the other. Oh spirits, what a mess!
Seven had remained quite still while Chakotay confronted Kathryn, but her mind was awhirl. She felt as if her universe had shifted. Did he love the captain? She’d heard the rumours, of course, but dismissed them as just that. Her own observations had led her to conclude that the pair were close friends, but nothing more. Therefore, Chakotay was free and available to pursue a relationship with her. When she’d asked him for a date, his response had only reinforced that impression, but now she was beginning to wonder. She was becoming aware that his relationship with Kathryn Janeway was considerably more complicated than she’d realized.
She had been looking forward to his companionship now that they were on Earth, as well as his guidance in her first intimate relationship. As yet, they had shared no more than several heated kisses – there had been no opportunity for anything else – but tonight, he had given every indication that he wanted to go further. They had been heading to his quarters when the lift had stuck. Now, it seemed the dynamics had changed again, and she didn’t know what to do.
She bit her lip, analyzing the newest data, and came to a most unpleasant conclusion. Like it or not, she had to end her relationship with Chakotay, at least for the present. She flinched, knowing she had no desire whatsoever to do so. She wasn’t sure if what she felt for him was love as defined by the romantics, but she was certainly strongly attracted to him and anxious to explore their relationship further. However, Kathryn Janeway was her mentor, the person whom she looked up to more than anyone else, including Chakotay. She owed the captain her very existence and if there was some way she might repay that debt, at least in part, then in all honour, she must do so. Even if she got hurt in the process.
She took a deep breath and began to speak. “Captain, Chakotay, I have no wish to come between you. Clearly, you have unfinished business; therefore, I must stand aside.” She debated whether to say anything else, but decided she’d covered the essentials and subsided into her corner, feeling a cold weight settle in the pit of her stomach.
Chakotay objected at once, as Seven had known he would, but she held up a hand to forestall him, shaking her head. “You have a prior commitment,” she told him, trying to ignore the quaver in her voice. “You cannot abandon the captain.”
“Seven, I’m not! But I can’t abandon you either! I don’t want to….” He broke off in frustration, not knowing what he could say to make her change her mind.
Kathryn remained silent, praying the lift would move soon, thinking she had already caused more than enough damage for one evening. She had done it again, she told herself, ruined two more lives needlessly. Guilt crawled up her gullet and stuck in her throat, making her eyes water as she tried to swallow. Oh god! Couldn’t one thing go right tonight?!
As if in answer to her prayers, the lights flickered, then strengthened and the turbolift began to move.
The three clambered to their feet, smoothing clothing that had rumpled as they sat on the floor. In another few minutes, the lift slowed, then halted and the doors opened to allow them out into the main foyer of Headquarters. The area was swarming with people – engineers, technicians and Starfleet officers, as well as security guards and a few civilians. They hurried out as quickly as they dared, all three hoping to disappear in the crush.
No one tried to speak to them or stop them and they were able to escape outside. By unspoken consent, they walked together across the great plaza, pausing only when they’d reached the other side. Kathryn turned to her companions, her eyes sad and full of regret.
“I’m sorry for what I said. I…I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, since we got back…. It’s no excuse, I know, but….” She broke off, unable to think of anything else.
Seven nodded formally, her face set. “I accept your apology, Captain.” She turned to Chakotay, her expression softening. “I’m more sorry than I can say, but I truly believe that you must get…whatever this is between you…sorted out, before you and I can hope to enjoy more than friendship. I wish you well.” With that, she turned on her heel and disappeared into the night towards the guest quarters.
Chakotay stared after her sadly, but made no move to follow, instead turning back to face his erstwhile captain. She gazed up at him, for once not hiding her emotions, letting him see everything she felt for him. He sighed regretfully, then turned and started to walk slowly into the rose garden. Kathryn hesitated, then trotted after him, catching up as he found a bench and sat down wearily.
She stood in front of him, feeling absurdly nervous and unsure of herself. The ball was in his court now and she had no idea what he was going to do. After a moment, he looked up, then gestured her to sit beside him.
“Kathryn,” he spoke, turning to face her, “I’m going to need some time to think about all this. I…you threw me a real curve ball tonight, and it’ll take me a while to decide what I want to do.” He paused, then ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “If only you’d said something sooner!” He stopped, knowing there was no point in berating her now when it was too late.
“I’m going home to Dorvan,” he announced after a minute, sitting up and staring into the night. “I was going to anyway, take Seven to meet my sister. Well, that’s changed, but I want to go, I need to go…now, more than ever.” She’d gasped softly when he’d said he’d been planning to take Seven, then covered her mouth to hold in the sobs threatening to break loose. She couldn’t cry, not now. That would be the final insult.
She forced down her emotions and when she could speak, asked in a careful tone of voice. “Are you going to come back?”
Chakotay shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know.”
He seemed disinclined to say anything more, so she kept her silence, sitting still until finally he sighed and got to his feet. He looked down at her, seeing only Kathryn. There was no trace of the captain now. Well, maybe it was a start. He reached to gently cup her chin, tracing the line of tears that had escaped despite her efforts.
She gasped and clutched at his hand, fear flashing across her face. “Will I ever see you again, Chakotay?”
“I don’t know,” he replied softly, then added. “For what it’s worth, I still love you, I always will. But…I don’t know if I like you anymore.”
his hand free, then turned and walked away, leaving her sitting alone on
the bench, feeling old and very tired.
A year later
Kathryn trotted into her apartment after a long day spent at Jupiter Station. She had been asked, by Doctor Lewis Zimmerman no less, to assist him in adding new Emergency Command Holographic programs to the EMH’s holomatrix. She didn’t really care for Zimmerman – an arrogant, self-centered bastard if ever she’d seen one – but for the sake of the doctor, she’d gone. In fact, the day had been a pleasant surprise.
She had been delighted to find Seven there as well, adding ‘moral support’ as Seven phrased it. Kathryn had laughed at that, then laughed even harder at the battle of one-upmanship which ensued between Seven and Zimmerman. Talk about arrogance!
During one of the more acrimonious exchanges, the doctor had informed her, in a stage whisper, that this was mild compared to some of their encounters. She’d shaken her head in disbelief, quite happy to remain on the sidelines.
Now, she chuckled again, remembering the barrage of insults that had flown around the lab. Chakotay would have found it most amusing. Her expression sobered at the thought of him, and she hurried to her terminal, hoping for a message. But as always, there was nothing from Dorvan.
For the first few weeks after he’d left Earth, she had nearly gone crazy with guilt and remorse. He had become such an essential part of her life, even if he hadn’t always been physically present. Now that connection was gone, and she felt as if she’d lost part of her being. Funnily enough, in the end, it was Seven who helped her to find her balance again. They were able to commiserate together in their unhappiness, each understanding exactly how the other felt in a way no one else could. She liked to think that maybe she’d helped Seven a bit as well, although, if she were honest, she suspected that wasn’t the case. Seven had shown a surprising amount of maturity in the whole affair, more than she had, she knew.
Kathryn sighed, remembering as if it were yesterday, that disastrous night it had all fallen apart, when they’d been stuck in the turbolift. She would regret her angry words for the rest of her life, but – what was done, was done. Once spoken, she couldn’t take them back.
Enough, she told herself, going to the replicator. She had a busy day tomorrow, finishing up at the office before she began her annual leave. She would need to get a good night’s sleep.
An hour later, Kathryn was tidying the living room before starting her bath when the doorchime sounded. She scowled, wondering who on earth would visit her at this time of night. She peered through the peephole and gasped in astonishment. On the other side stood Chakotay.
Quickly, she yanked open the door, then stood facing him in stunned silence. He smiled, a bit nervously, then gestured her. “May I come in, Kathryn?”
His voice brought her back to herself and she jumped. “Oh! Sorry, of course, yes! I…you’ve surprised me, Chakotay!”
She stepped aside as she spoke, allowing him to pass her into the apartment. He walked into the living room and turned to face her.
“I hope you don’t mind me dropping in like this. I was going to send you a message, but I couldn’t seem to find the right words for what I wanted to say, and then I had to come to Earth anyway, so in the end, it seemed easier to see you in person.”
“No! Of course, I don’t mind. Please, sit down. Can I get you anything? A cup of tea?”
He shook his head. “Maybe later.” He moved close to her, taking her hand in his, and playing with her fingers before dropping it.
Kathryn’s initial delight at seeing him was starting to change to a very nasty feeling in the pit of her stomach. What could it be that he found so difficult to say? Chakotay had a way with words, he spoke easily and well. This uneasy silence was quite unlike him.
She moved to the sofa and sat down, gesturing him to do the same. He settled beside her and picked up her hand again, holding it carefully.
“Kathryn, let me start by telling you that I’ve seen Seven today…”
She gasped in surprise. “You did?! When?!”
He looked puzzled. “Just before I came here. Why?”
She looked a little abashed. “Sorry. It’s just that I spent the day with her and the doctor at Jupiter Station. Zimmerman has designed a new matrix for the EMH so he can become an ECH, if necessary.”
Chakotay looked interested. “Really? You mean he’s willing to still work on upgrades for an old Mark One like our doctor?”
“Well, approached in the right way, he is. And bear in mind, the doctor isn’t just any Mark One. In fact, he’s now the prototype for the ECH program. If he tests as well as we hope, and I’m sure he will, the program will become part of the standard programming for the latest model, the Mark Five.”
He chuckled softly. “Well, I’ll be damned. I never thought that crazy idea would actually work.”
“Oh yes, it works very well.” She grinned impishly. “A little too well for some captains’ peace of mind. But they’ll get used to it.”
His smile faded, although his expression remained more relaxed than earlier. “Well, as I was starting to say, I saw Seven a little while ago and we had a very frank talk. The gist of it was that we’ve each gone on with our lives in different directions, and it would be pretty difficult, if not impossible, to pick up where we left off a year ago.”
Kathryn nodded slowly. She knew that Seven had recently started to date one of the young holoprogrammers that Zimmerman was training. So far, it had all been very casual, but she was pretty sure that Seven wanted to deepen the friendship to something more. She said as much to Chakotay, although she was careful to spare him the details. She didn’t know what he felt about Seven anymore and she didn’t want to hurt him unduly.
He smiled slightly, then changed the subject. “She told me how much closer you and she have become, how you developed a different kind of relationship than the one you had on board the ship. In fact, she was quite definite that I should come and see you right away, tonight. She said you’re going on leave tomorrow, is that right?”
Kathryn nodded. “The day after tomorrow, yes.”
“For how long?”
“A month, if I want it, although I’ll probably come back after a couple of weeks. I get bored traveling by myself, it’s easier to work.”
Chakotay seemed to relax a bit more, then asked bluntly. “You aren’t seeing anyone, like she is?”
Kathryn looked down at their joined hands. “No.”
His voice was very soft. “Why not? I’m sure you’ve had the opportunity.”
She swallowed, but kept her voice even. “You know why.”
He didn’t answer, but his grip tightened on her fingers. Without looking up, she voiced the question uppermost in her mind. “Chakotay. Why did you have to come to see me? What couldn’t you say in a message?”
She heard him take a deep breath, then his other hand reached for her chin, lifting it so he could look directly at her face. “I love you, Kathryn. And no matter what I do, or how hard I try, I can’t stop. I’ve nearly gone crazy on Dorvan, missing you, wanting you.
“I’ve told myself over and over that I’m a fool, that I have to find a way to get past you, but every time I think I might, I remember what you said in the turbolift that night, that Seven had taken away the dream you held on to on Voyager.
“I have to know, Kathryn, what did you mean?”
His eyes bored into hers, intense with passion, brooking no denial or deception. She couldn’t look away, pinned in place by the force of his gaze.
“I meant that for all the years we were in the Delta Quadrant, when I had to be the captain twenty-four hours a day, somewhere in the back of my mind was the hope, the dream, that someday, when we got home, I could tell you how I felt about you.”
“And? Go on,” he encouraged her.
She shrugged. “Well, you know what happened. By the time we did get home, I was too late. You had taken up with Seven and I was left high and dry.”
His look became exasperated. “Kathryn! Quit stalling! What would you have told me if there had been no Seven?”
Well, this was it! She stared at him, thinking that he had taken a chance and been honest with her – it was only fair that she do the same.
“I would have called you into my ready room, and after thanking you profusely for all your support and loyalty over the years, I would have told you how very much I loved you, and that I hoped we might be able to explore a deeper relationship once we didn’t have to contend with the barriers of command. And then I would have done this.”
She leaned forward, stretching up to just brush her lips across his. He remained very still, except for the hand holding hers, which now came up to grasp her head. She moved back slightly, enough to break the kiss, but remaining very close to him.
He gazed into her eyes, then bent his head and took her mouth hard, his lips moving over hers, tongue out, tasting, licking, learning her contours. She melted into him, aware only of the feel and taste of him, oblivious to everything else. His tongue pushed between her lips into her mouth, exploring, weaving with hers. She moaned as her body responded, grasping his shoulders and the back of his neck.
After a moment, he lifted his head, eyes shining with joy. “And now?” he whispered the question, although he already knew the answer. “Do you still love me now?”
“Oh god, Chakotay! After a kiss like that, you have to ask?! Of course, I love you! I’ll always love you, I can’t stop anymore than you can!”
“Then come home with me, Kathryn, home to Dorvan, where we can make a good life together.”
still, thinking, and then she began to smile, a beautiful full ‘Kathryn’
smile. Chakotay’s heart soared as she nodded.
“All right,” she murmured. “I will.”
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