Disclaimer - You know the routine. Everyone is Paramount's.
Okay, this is a follow up to 'Almost', in case you couldn't guess. It's the second part of a trilogy.
Dedications: to Renegade (for threatening me), to Ghostie (for writing the best dang smut I've ever read), to Sammi (for being not-so-tall) and to Jannk (for having the balls to write that letter).
Kathryn Janeway rose from her seat and turned toward Ensign Kim. "Harry?"
He checked the readings on his console. "I'm picking up large numbers of plant life. Looks like we could add something new to our menu."
She smiled at his attempt at humour. To say things had been strained lately was something of an understatement.
As always, Tuvok answered promptly. "Sensors are detecting nothing more advanced than a few primitive life forms. There appear to be no cultures of any kind, and I am not detecting any ships in sensor range which could claim this planet as their territory."
Kathryn nodded. "Good. How long until we enter orbit Mr Paris?"
"Approximately three hours and twenty minutes."
"Understood. I'll be in my ready room. Inform me when we are about to enter orbit." Kathryn finally turned to her First Officer, the reason why things had been so strained lately. It was only the second time she had openly acknowledged his presence since he started his shift. Handing the bridge over to him, she somehow managed to make the whole interchange without looking at his face, something she was getting quite adept at. Quickly walking away from him she entered her ready room, hands clasped tightly behind her back.
The bridge crew didn't actually collectively sigh in relief when she left the bridge, but they may as well of had. The tension instantly lightened although it didn't leave completely. There were still those on duty who were concerned about the Commander's mood.
Chakotay for his part was not having a good day. He hated tension of any kind, especially when it was apparent on the bridge. It was devastating for morale. The ship ran better when the crew were relaxed but alert. He knew Kathryn was aware of this but she hadn't done anything about it. She'd been so tense lately he feared that she would snap in two every time she sat in her chair.
The decision made, he turned to Harry and cracked a joke about hoping there wasn't any leola root on the planet. Everyone smiled or laughed appropriately, but they appreciated the effort. The tension vanished completely, only to be replaced by a slight nervous humour. Nevertheless, Chakotay managed to have them all in a good mood by the time they reached the planet several hours later.
"Captain Janeway to the bridge."
Chakotay's head shot up from the console to his right at Harry's summons, his eyes instantly searching for her door. Realising what he was doing he quickly looked away before she would come out of the room and catch him. It wasn't easy giving up old habits.
Her ready room door swished open and she stepped onto the bridge, extremely relieved to be free from the monthly reports. Nothing could bore you quicker than reading reports about a month of non-events. "Report."
"We're about to enter orbit Captain." Harry responded.
Nodding and sitting down in her chair, she glanced over at Chakotay. At exactly the same time he was glancing up from his console. Their eyes met for the first time in days, possibly even weeks. She couldn't remember exactly how long, but neither could he.
Any thoughts of resistance left her mind and all she could focus on were his eyes. Nothing else existed. Not the bridge, nor the ship, nor the other people in the room. Her mind was completely empty until one thought finally managed to produce itself. I can't see anything.
Kathryn couldn't see anything in his eyes. Okay, that wasn't a hundred percent true. She couldn't see what she expected to see.
Censure, anger. Neither of them were there.
Instead there was sorrow, and its appearance tore at her more than any other emotion she might have observed.
She started to whisper an apology when someone's console beeped. Blinking harshly they looked away from each other. Chakotay immediately returned his fake interest to his console and she stood again, moving to the front of the bridge.
The planet was beautiful. It reminded him somewhat of Dorvan V - before the Cardassians came. He swallowed back his anger that rose when he thought of all the people that had been slaughtered - and the faces of every Cardassian he had killed in return.
He reached the top of the small rise and exhaled heavily, trying to physically force the depressing thoughts out of him with his breath. Closing his eyes he tried to let his stress drop away. His breathing slowed and the frown on his forehead vanished.
"Commander?" came an inquisitive voice behind him. Ah. Work. Regretfully opening his eyes he turned away from the sunlight and looked down at the visitor. "Yes Harry?"
His young dark eyes were full of questions. "Sorry to disturb you sir, but do you mind if I ask what you were doing?"
Chakotay began to walk back down the small slope towards the Ensign. "Doing?"
"Yes sir. Were you...communicating with the land?"
Chakotay chuckled slightly. "No Ensign. I was just relaxing."
Blushing slightly Harry smiled anyway. "Oh. Sorry."
"No need to apologise Harry." He clapped the Ensign on the shoulder before opening his tricorder and scanning the surroundings. "I can understand how you misunderstood."
Harry joined him with his own tricorder. "And I can understand why you need to relax."
Still looking at his tricorder, Chakotay rose his eyebrows. Not at the readings he was getting - they were just what he expected. It was Harry's comment. He quickly glanced over at him. Harry seemed to be enthralled in his own readings. Was young, innocent Ensign Harry Kim being nosy? Or was he just offering to listen? "I guess it's been pretty obvious." he said carefully.
Looking at his tricorder, Harry grinned. "It hasn't exactly been easy to miss sir."
That was rather ambiguous. Chakotay said so.
"Well to be honest Commander, so was your comment."
Smiling, Chakotay looked up at the sky. "True. Listen to us - both using ambiguous terms so we won't actually be talking about what we're talking about. For all anyone knows we could be talking about my heavy work load, Tom and B'Elanna's latest argument, my disagreement with Tuvok about the new security schedules...but we both know we're not."
Shaking his head Chakotay laughed. "Harry, you've helped save my life countless times, we've known each other and worked together for nearly five years...I think you've earned the right to use my name." He turned back to Harry whose face was suddenly apprehensive at the very idea.
"You may have to give me a few days on that one sir."
Woah. Deja vu. Harry was staring at him. "Are you okay Commander? You have the strangest expression on your face."
"I'm fine Harry. You just reminded me of something, that's all." Disturbed, he looked down at his tricorder again.
They contacted Voyager five minutes later and confirmed the sensor readings. There were a lot of plants and vegetables on this planet that would boost their slightly flagging food supplies. Neelix would be overjoyed, but so would the crew. They'd had to eat Pleeka Rind Casserole every day this week. Variety was supposedly the spice of life, and they desperately needed some.
At Chakotay's suggestion several teams were sent down to scout out the area for food they could use and then transport back to the ship.
Neelix, Harry, Ayala and Chakotay all headed a team.
Six hours later Chakotay felt ready to collapse. He tried to remain happy with the results - the work was necessary if tiring. Still, he managed to work off some of his frustration when pulling out or cutting up plants and vegetables. Eventually though, the work had become only that - work. By the time he found a routine it didn't really require any deep thought, and so his mind began to wander...
He found himself envisioning several scenarios where he and Kathryn could come to some kind of understanding regarding their conversation in her ready room several weeks ago. Even if they agreed to disagree and try to put it behind them it would have been something, but neither of them had tried to discuss it. There hadn't been the slightest reference, the smallest acknowledgement. The closest they'd come to a breakthrough had been on the bridge this morning. He knew she'd been so near to saying something about it, no matter how vague. Yet again they had been interrupted, but this time it had been Voyager herself who had been the culprit, not Tuvok. Although he hadn't yet discovered whose console it had been...hmm...
Neelix scurried over, covered in dirt but grinning brightly, and he had his hands cupped reverently around something. He opened his hands with a great amount of ceremony, as if he were holding on to a precious gem. To Neelix it was.
Seeds. Apparently he had found some seeds that he'd be able to grow on board Voyager. It was indeed a reason for celebration, but Chakotay was too exhausted to get worked up about it. He smiled encouragingly at the Talaxian. "That's great work Neelix. Have you told Harry?" He regretted the need to inflict Neelix on the young man, but he really couldn't deal with him.
"I haven't Commander! I'll go and tell him right now!" and with that he ran off to find Harry.
Relieved, Chakotay sat down from his crouching position and rubbed his arm across his forehead. His nose wrinkled when he saw the amount of dirt that came off. He must look awful.
Grabbing his canteen from the ground, he leant against a conveniently placed rock which was only a few metres away. Twisting the top off, he then drank from it eagerly. He'd have to go back to Voyager soon. He suspected he'd get a speech from the Doctor as it was about working too hard.
Replacing the lid, he pulled himself up, groaning as he did so. Yep, he'd definitely have to go back soon. Bending over he picked up the pile of vegetables he'd collected and dumped them on the anti-grav trolleys that had been transported down. With the latest addition it was full up now anyway, so he tapped his com badge and contacted the rest of the teams. Everyone was just about ready to leave.
"Chakotay to Voyager."
Kathryn looked up from her PADD. "Janeway here."
"We're ready to transport up Captain. We've collected a sizeable amount of food."
"Good work Commander. I'll notify the transporter room."
Ayala's team was transported up first, and the crewman looked relieved that he could get some rest soon. Chakotay couldn't blame him.
Then he heard it. A low whining sound. Not from something that was alive, but from something...turning around he looked at the anti-grav cart to see crackles of energy surrounding it. His eyes widened even as his mind was telling his legs to move. "Run!"
He barely got that single word out before the cart exploded.
Kathryn had to stop herself from clucking her tongue on the roof of her mouth. Chakotay's team seemed to be taking a long time to transport up...
"Kim to Voyager! Medical emergency. Beam Chakotay and me direct to sickbay!"
Kathryn was out of her chair instantly, heart pounding, thoughts racing. What the hell had happened? She didn't even look at Tuvok as she stated the unnecessary order. "You have the bridge." She didn't say where she was going, but they knew where she would be.
The turbolift journey to deck five seemed to be taking forever. She tried to school her expression into one of slight concern, not the naked panic she felt passing through her body. He has to be alright, he has to be alright... Yes, yes. Keep repeating that. Nothing could happen to him. Not Chakotay.
Suddenly realising she was biting on her fingernail she yanked the offending finger out of her mouth. This wasn't something that the Captain of Voyager did!
Finally the turbolift halted and the doors opened. She barged out, nearly knocking Susan Nicoletti over in the process. Kathryn paid no attention to the unfortunate crewmember whatsoever.
Almost running down the corridor, she saw the entrance to her destination. Fully intending to enter, a thought struck her and she stopped before the doors sensors could detect her presence and open. She couldn't go in. What if he was gone? Closing her eyes tightly she shook her head. She couldn't have these kind of self-indulgent thoughts.
Moving quickly before someone saw her standing in the corridor for no apparent reason, she entered sickbay. They were too busy to notice her presence, so no one saw her as she arrived. No one observed the expression of horror on her face as she saw the burns and caked dirt and blood on her First Officers body, which she then hid.
She was barely aware of the Doctor and Tom, who were working on him, the Doctor barking out orders to a Lieutenant who for once wasn't taking offence. There wasn't time for that.
Harry sat on one of the other biobeds to the left of biobed one, his concern clearly seen on his face. Turning to his left slightly he saw the Captain who seemed to be frozen in place with no expression on her face at all.
No response. He tried again.
Pulling her gaze from Chakotay, she only seemed to be aware of his presence when he called her. She walked towards him, and he was still amazed that she had no expression.
"You've been injured." she stated flatly.
"Umm...yes. But it's not serious."
She nodded. "Nevertheless you need to be treated." Picking up a skin regenerator from the medtray next to the bed, she started using it on the burns on his face and hands. "My medical skills may not be quite as good as the Doctors, but he needs to concentrate on something else."
He was about to reassure her when she spoke again. "What's his prognosis?"
"I don't know yet," he admitted "they've been too busy. I didn't want to interrupt them to ask."
She was staring at the regenerator as it worked. "Understood. What happened down there?"
"The anti-grav cart exploded. I have no idea what caused the overload, but Chakotay clearly knew something was wrong because he told us to run just before it exploded."
Finishing the wounds on his face, she moved to his hands which he held up gingerly. "So he was the closest to the explosion." she stated, working on his hands intently.
"Yes. There were a few other injuries that I saw, but nothing as serious as..." his voice trailed off. He couldn't continue.
He heard her take what he thought was a shaky breath, but he couldn't be sure. Her head was still facing down.
The doors to sickbay opened and several people from the away teams entered with slight burns and injuries. Kathryn tended them as best she could with Harry's help. She wouldn't drag the Doctor or Tom away from their work.
Before she realised it, an hour had passed. The last of the minor injuries treated, she thanked Harry and ordered him back to his quarters. He objected but she wouldn't relent. Her argument was sound. He was clearly exhausted and tired. Covered in dirt and dust and recovering from third degree burns. He gave in.
For the first time since seeing Harry, Kathryn looked over at Chakotay. She didn't have any excuse for not looking at him now. The Doctor and Tom were still working on him, which she thought had been an absurdly long time. On the other hand, they didn't seem to be quite as frantic as they had been earlier. That was a good sign. Wasn't it?
Having nothing else to do other than wait in sickbay, Kathryn returned to the bridge. Though he tried to hide it, Tuvok was clearly surprised to see her return before they were informed of Chakotay's prognosis.
She didn't stay on the bridge for long, and headed for her ready room after she handed the bridge back to Tuvok again. Once in her sanctuary, she immediately set about finishing the monthly reports she had so hated reading earlier.
She was summoned to sickbay nearly two hours later.
He looked better, but not by much. The dirt and blood had been cleared off as much as possible, but there were still a few burns visible. He was still pale.
The Doctor walked towards her. "Captain."
"What's the prognosis?" she blurted out, unable to hold back her concern for a moment longer.
The EMH sighed. She detested that action from him. It was always followed by bad news.
"Well we've managed to repair most of the tissue damage, although I'm leaving some of the burns to heal naturally which I'll eventually tidy up with a regenerator. There's also some ligament damage in his legs. The real problem is the neural damage he suffered as a result of the blast. It appears that he was hit not only by the force of the explosion, but also by an energy discharge from the cart before it blew." He smiled at her encouragingly. "I'd like to say that he's going to be just fine, but it's too early to tell. He's stable for the moment. It's just a matter of time."
Why did that seem so important?
Harry looked up from his breakfast. "Hi Tom. Wanna join us?"
"Sure." he grinned, sitting next to Harry and opposite Seven. He placed his tray on the table and started eating. He looked around mid-chew when he realised how quiet it was on their table. Okay, so there were only three of them at the table, but no one was talking. He wasn't surprised that Seven was quiet - she still couldn't get the hang of 'small talk' (irrelevant apparently). But from Harry there was nothing. He was usually chatting with Seven about something technical, but he was strangely reticent today.
"Well...we're a cheery lot today."
Seven raised an eyebrow at him. Clearly she'd been spending far too much time with Tuvok.
Harry looked up from his food which he wasn't eating anyway. He grasped the fork half-heartedly and pushed his food around with it. "Sorry Tom. I guess I'm just kind of...depressed."
Tom agreed. "It seems as if everyone has lately."
"I mean I know the tension on the bridge lately has been bad..."
"And we still don't know what caused it."
"...but things are ever worse now. Have you seen the Captain come out of the ready room since the accident? I certainly haven't. And I know she wasn't very chummy with the crew even before all this...but now it's as if she doesn't have any off duty time whatsoever."
Nodding sagely, Tom considered his friends words. "Sounds like...something is really bothering her."
Harry snorted. "Yeah, well that 'something' is lying in sickbay and could use her support."
"Maybe it's the only way she can deal with it Harry."
He sighed. "I guess so. I suppose I'm just disappointed."
"About what? That your mother figure didn't live up to your expectations?"
His expression darkened.
Tom continued. "And before you start moaning at me, think about this: you're right. Ever since the accident she's been even more withdrawn than usual. Working harder and longer hours, if that's possible. She has no relaxation time whatsoever. And it's starting to show."
Harry's fork cluttered to the table. "Then why doesn't someone do something?"
"About the Captain? You and what invasion fleet? And why is this getting you so worked up?"
His friend calmed down. "I was there...when it happened. The explosion. It was...memorable."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"No thanks. I already had to give a full report to Tuvok. What got to me was that before the accident the last thing we were talking about was...her. Not directly, but we knew what we were saying. And now...she won't even go and visit him."
Tom was shocked. He always figured Harry had the Captain up on pedestal or something. To hear him talking like this was worrying. "So what are you saying here Harry, that you're going to interfere?"
"Of course not. I have no more right to do that than anyone else. She just has to realise that she's not alone. Maybe we could give her…you know…a little push."
Seven tilted her head in interest.
Scrunching her eyes shut, Kathryn tried to dispel the headache that had been building for the last three hours. Truth be told, it had been building since the accident five days ago.
She was in her quarters now, trying to sleep. It was the only reason she came here anymore. The rest of her time was spent working. This lead to a problem - she was exhausted, but she was so highly strung that she couldn't sleep. Kathryn hadn't felt this bad since she'd had those metal spikes stuck in her head.
Flipping over in bed, Kathryn tried to snuggle further into it. Just let it all drop away Kathryn. Forget about work. Forget about stress. Forget about Chakotay... Her leg spasmed. Yelping, she sat up and grabbed the appendage and proceeded to rub at her poor muscles.
After a few minutes the pain receded, but hovered in the background. She had the bizarre feeling that it was waiting for her to relax. That it was waiting for her to almost fall asleep and then strike again. As if it had some kind of agenda.
Flopping back onto the bed, Kathryn entwined her hands over her stomach. Maybe she should ask the Doctor for a sedative...but then he'd ask her why she wanted one.
Throwing back her covers with a heavy sigh, she got out of bed and headed toward her computer terminal. She might as well get some work done if she couldn't sleep.
That didn't help matters at all. Her thoughts kept wandering and the text kept blurring when she looked at the screen. Night (she still considered it night, despite the fact that it was always dark outside) was the only time she had any truly personal thoughts. When all her concerns and fears would voice themselves. When she would consider if she could have handled things differently.
When she thought of Chakotay.
Which was why she couldn't focus on her objective - to bore herself to sleep.
"Doctor to Janeway. Please report to sickbay at once."
Her head jerked up at his hail. He hadn't sounded urgent. Maybe that was a good sign...
"What is it Doctor?"
He was holding a scanner which seemed to be bleeping merrily at her. Or was she romanticising? At her words, he turned at grinned. Definitely a good sign.
"I'm happy to report that the Commander is making very good progress. In fact he managed to remain consciousness just a few minutes ago. He was slightly disoriented, but fully cognisant of who he was and where he was. I predict he should be up and about by next week. Full recovery will take longer, but it will happen."
"Why that's wonderful-…very good news. But why didn't you just tell me when you hailed me?" It wasn't that she minded, but Kathryn was curious.
He seemed to hesitate, before returning his attention back to the scanner. "He asked for you. To be more specific, he asked that you go to his quarters and get his medicine bundle. He's asleep now and I'd like him to stay that way for a while. It's the first time since the accident that he hasn't been unconscious because of sedative or injury."
Her voice was quiet when she replied. "I understand."
She'd only been there twice before, and neither had afforded her the opportunity to get a good look at the way he lived. There were few personal items which was not unexpected. Almost everything he'd owned had been destroyed on the Maquis ship when he'd sacrificed it to save hers. Only Voyager was no longer hers. It was theirs.
She moved further into the room, allowing the doors to cut off the source of fake light than intruded on the room. The only other light was from the stars that shone brightly through the windows of his bedroom. She was willing to bet he didn't use Voyager's lights much, that he preferred to guide himself around his quarters using a more natural light source.
Reprimanding herself for such fanciful thoughts she started looking around his quarters for his medicine bundle. She had no idea where he kept it. It couldn't be seen on any surfaces, so she started searching through the few drawers he had. Clothes. Underwear (she blushed when she encountered his shorts). Ah, this drawer looked promising. The first item she saw after it hissed open was his medicine bundle. She grabbed it happily, then noticed a few other objects behind it.
One appeared to be a photograph in an old fashioned frame. Her hand shook as she reached out to turn it over. Somehow she knew what it would be. She was half-right. It was a picture of her on New Earth, but it wasn't quite the picture she expected to see. In fact it was one she had never known he'd taken. He'd hated that monkey, but for some reason he had taken a picture of her with the animal. The monkey was up in a tree, and she was trying to coax it down with a banana. She smiled fondly at the memories the picture evoked. Chakotay had teased her, saying that the monkey probably had no idea what a banana was, never mind what it tasted like. There were no bananas on New Earth, so how would it know to eat it?
Grinning slightly, Kathryn carefully replaced the photograph the way she found it. As if trying to catch her attention, starlight twinkled on another item in the drawer. She had no idea what it would be. Quickly grabbing it before her conscience could warn her about being nosy, she brought it up to her face and examined it.
It was a watch. A silver pocket watch, the design from several centuries ago. It was beautiful, obviously painstakingly made or replicated. Her eager hands found a release mechanism and she slowly opened it. The hands and figures were black, set on a white background. Her eyes were drawn to the second hand as she watched it move. It seemed to hypnotise her, trying to tell her something.
Why was it so important? And why was it familiar? She'd never seen it before. She'd certainly never seen him use it.
Then she saw it. An inscription on the reverse on the hatch she had just opened. There were no names, no initials. Just a phrase.
'You're not alone.'
Tuvok was sitting in the mess hall when Seven approached him. "Commander. Have you had a pleasant day?"
"I see the Doctor is still trying to teach you some inter-social skills." he stated.
"Yes. May I join you?"
Sitting down opposite him, Seven contemplated where to start." I am in need of your...insights."
"You seem to understand me better than most of the crew, and I believe the same could be said about me of you. We are both not as...emotional as the others."
He placed his cup down on the table. "That is not an entirely correct statement, but your meaning is evident."
Nodding thoughtfully, Seven continued. "I recently witnessed an interesting conversation between Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Paris. I would appreciate your help in my analysis of it."
"What was their conversation about?" he queried.
"Indeed? And what about the Captain?"
"The possibility of her feelings toward Commander Chakotay."
The eyebrow rose then, which had until now remained dormant. "I do not believe the Captain would appreciate learning that Ensign Kim, Lieutenant Paris and ourselves have been discussing her relationship with the Commander."
"Well it's about time someone mentioned it." came a different voice. Without invitation, B'Elanna sat down next to Tuvok. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I heard Tom's name and couldn't help but listen in." She shrugged guilelessly.
Tuvok almost believed her.
Seven was interested in B'Elanna's previous statement. "Your comment seems to indicate that this has been going on for some time."
"Oh, you bet." B'Elanna informed her, for once forgetting her hostility. "Their relationship has been the hot topic since we were stranded out here."
"I would have to disagree with that assessment Ms Torres." Tuvok said.
She rolled her eyes. "Why am I not surprised?"
"I am merely stating fact. Your relationship with Mr Paris was quite the 'hot topic' for a long time."
B'Elanna shifted in her chair uncomfortably. "Yeah, well...apart from that."
"Does talking about romantic relationships make you uncomfortable Lieutenant?" Seven asked.
The chief engineer's anger flared up. "No it does not! I just don't like discussing my relationship with Tom in public."
Seven frowned. "I do not understand. I have heard you comment about Lieutenant Paris' virility to other crewmembers-"
"What? Did I say something wrong?"
B'Elanna rubbed her hand over her face harshly, trying to force back the blush on her cheeks. "That's different! I only ever talk about that with other women, and only with certain women. How did you hear that anyway?" She eyed the ex-Borg suspiciously.
"At the last Christmas party. I believe you were intoxicated as you were talking rather loudly to the Delaney sisters."
Clapping her hand over her mouth, B'Elanna's eyes widened. Her words were muffled. "I had no idea." Removing her hand she then frowned heavily. "No wonder Tom looked so smug the next day..."
"So you do not object to talking about procreation, but you refrain from discussing the emotional connection between you and Lieutenant Paris?"
"Well...I...not all the time!" B'Elanna exclaimed.
"This is most confusing." Seven said, turning to Tuvok.
"Indeed." was all he had to say about the matter.
Completely forgetting the purpose for entering his quarters, Kathryn sat on the floor cross-legged, absently placing his medicine bundle next to her. She ran her fingers over every indentation of the watch that she could find. The artwork was spectacular. How could anyone make something this intricate?
Her fingers passed over the inscription she had read, which had been carved into the silver somehow. Laser? Or something simpler?
'You're not alone.'
It was such an interesting phrase, she thought. And despite the lack of identification she knew who had made it and who it was intended for. But why had he never given it to her? It wasn't recently made, of that she was certain. It had been in that drawer for a long time. That bothered her. How could she know so much about an object she'd never seen?
Another large indentation was found on the back of the watch by her questing fingers. Turning it over she had to hold the watch at an angle to get enough light to see what it was. It was another inscription.
Today is May 20th.
She froze. She blinked. Where had that come from?
Is it? I thought we were still in April. I guess I've lost track of the time.
Well, this should help.
And suddenly she was on the bridge of Voyager, working on repairing something with a hyperspanner. Disconcerted by the sudden change of environment she tried to lift her head to look around but discovered she couldn't. Yet somehow she knew the bridge had seen better days. It was not-so-metaphorically falling apart at the seams. She knew she was sitting in front of a particularly large pile of damaged materials which had apparently fallen or been blown off other sections of the bridge.
The next thing she knew, Chakotay was talking to her. "Happy Birthday." He said gamely.
She continued working. "Happy what?"
"Today is May 20th."
Kathryn switched off her tool, and looked up at him confused. How could it be her Birthday? She had celebrated it three months ago. But it was a different set of thoughts that emerged from her mouth. "Is it? I thought we were still in April. I guess I lost track of the time."
"Well, this should help." he replied, crouching down and handing her the watch.
She took it from him and examined as if it were the first time she had seen it. Which it was, really. "It's beautiful."
"19th century. Mechanical movement." He continued talking as she looked at the watch. "It's a replica of the chronometer worn by Captain Kray of the British Navy. His ship was hit by a typhoon in the Pacific. Everyone back in England thought they dead. Eight months later, Kray sailed into London Harbour. There wasn't much of the ship left...a few planks...half a sail...but he got his crew home." He smiled as he said the last sentence.
Kathryn suddenly found herself giving the watch back to him. What was she doing?! "I appreciate the gesture, but I can't keep this. Recycle it. We can't afford to waste energy on non-essentials." Horrified at her own actions, Kathryn tried to reach out and snatch the watch back but she didn't appear to be in control of her body. Or her words.
The expression on his face was pure torture to her.
"Kathryn, I replicated this months ago." He insisted, clutching the watch to his chest. "I've been saving it - I wanted you to have it."
Unable to stop herself, she used the hyperspanner to point at his gift. "That watch represents a meal, a hypospray or a pair of boots. It could mean the difference between life and death some day."
He hovered for a few seconds before standing from his crouching position and walking away.
Kathryn tried to grab his arm to stop him. No, I didn't mean it! I love the watch, I'll cherish it forever.
But she couldn't. She had already found herself turning back to the console and working with the hyperspanner...
Time readjusted itself and she was back in Chakotay's quarters. As she slumped into unconsciousness the watch fell from her grasp to the floor.
She remembered. She remembered everything that had never occurred. Her body twitched in response to the memories that were suddenly invading her mind. The week of hell that rapidly turned into something worse. The loss of life, the loss of her crew. The loss of Chakotay. Her regret at not being able to take his gift, then her shock when she found it. Holding the watch then looking over at his chair, as if he were there in spirit. By her side. Always.
Somewhere through the confusion in her mind there came a word. A word spoken in a familiar voice. The word was: "Captain?"
She was aware of various sensations; a slight pressure on her neck followed by a hissing sound. The suddenly clarity in her mind as the drug performed its function. Not clarity of thought certainly, but clarity in the sense that at least she knew where and when she was.
Fluttering open, her eyes focused on the first thing she saw. "Doctor?"
His frown vanished as she spoke. "How are you feeling?" he asked, helping her to sit up.
Raising her hand up to her face, she rubbed it across her eyes. "Confused." Suddenly her eyes snapped open and her hand quickly fell from her face. Scanning the floor frantically she tried to find the watch. "Where is it?" she cried, running her hands on the carpet. It had to be here!
"Where is what Captain?"
Finally she located it hiding just out of sight under a table. Grabbing the item she clutched it to her chest and closed her eyes. "It doesn't matter. I've found it."
The Doctor's frown re-appeared. "Captain, do you mind if I ask what happened? When you didn't return with the Commander's medicine bundle I tried hailing you several times and when you didn't respond I came looking for you. I found you on the floor unconscious."
With her back to him and her eyes still closed, Kathryn smiled slightly. Her fingers still rubbing the watch. "I just fell asleep."
"In the middle of someone elses quarters? In the middle of Commander Chakotay's quarters?"
"What can I say? You've told me on many a time that I need to get more rest." Opening her eyes she looked down at the watch. "I did. And I had the most fascinating dream..."
He harrumphed. Clearly she had no intention of telling him what really happened. "Well...as my tricorder didn't detect anything wrong with you medically I'll have to give you the benefit of the doubt. Will you bring the Commander's medicine bundle to sickbay now?"
He watched as her head lowered. In sadness?
"No." she eventually replied.
"No? But Captain, he specifically asked that yo-"
"I know he did Doctor." She replied, speaking in an oddly calm tone. "But I can't. I just realised what it would be like if I lost him. I mean, I certainly had an indication of what it would feel like from this accident, but to actually experience it..."
The last few words were whispered.
"I never knew. I didn't know if he was alive, dead, being tortured. The ambiguity was nearly my undoing. The only thing that kept me going was my dedication to getting home. It I had lost him I wasn't going to lose the rest of you as well, despite your protests."
But she had to keep talking. "And then..." she almost sobbed "...then I found the watch. It was the only part of him I had left..."
The Doctor closed his medical kit. "Um Captain, maybe you should come to sickbay anyway. I'd like to run some more detailed scans."
"No Doctor. I'm not going there while he's injured. I can't risk it. This only proves what I was trying to tell him a few weeks ago. Already my judgement concerning him has been impaired! What if something else happened? What if we had a closer relationship and I lost him?"
"I'm not saying that I completely understand what you're saying Captain...but didn't you just inform me that you'd lost him once already? And that you survived?"
She laughed harshly. "That was no kind of life Doctor. Besides, I died anyway." Standing without his assistance she pointed to the medicine bundle. "I'd appreciate it if you could take this to the Commander for me. If you absolutely think it's necessary I will report to sickbay after he has been released."
Picking up the medicine bundle in his free hand he hesitated before leaving the room.
Once the doors swished shut, Kathryn leant against the wall heavily. Blinking against the wetness in her eyes she looked down at the now-blurry object for probably the last time. What she told the Doctor had been right. She couldn't lose her objectivity regarding Chakotay any more. The effect this gift had on her only proved that.
The drawer was still open - she'd had no chance to close it before she collapsed earlier. Sentimentally, she placed a kiss on the watch even though she hated herself for being so weak. She swore it would be the last time she would allow herself that.
She could almost feel her Captain persona moving into position as she returned the watch to its place and the drawer closed.
So I took a few liberties with the watch…;P
e-mail // voyager fic