Disclaimer - Paramount own the names. Most of them.
Contains references to That Voyager Episode That Shall Not Be Named and Equinox (fifth season finale).
Another day, another cliché.
Chakotay has picked up some *terrible* habits. They have to stop.
The beeping of his tricorder intensified. The life-form was close by.
They were responding to a distress call Voyager had picked up two hours ago. Upon reaching the co-ordinates they discovered an average sized one person vessel of unknown configuration. Sensor scans revealed the possibility of life, but as they couldn't get a secure fix on their location it was decided that an away team would be sent. The team was comprised of Chakotay, Tuvok, Paris and the Doctor.
"Can you hear me?" The First Officer asked. The life-form had to be here...
Someone murmured something. He swung around in that direction, the simms beacon strapped to his wrist illuminating the rear section of the room that seemed to be covered in debris. The tricorder beeped even louder and he quickly approached the debris. "Doctor! I've found someone."
Not waiting to listen for rushing footsteps he bent down at the knees and peered into the hunks of twisted metal. "Hello? Are you hurt?"
"Yes..." a feminine voice replied, softly. "Just my arm. And my pride. This was not the start to my day that I imagined..."
"I'm sure it's not," he answered warmly. "But if you just hang on for a moment we'll get you out of there." As he continued his scans of the bulkhead that seem to be blocking her way out, the rest of the away team quickly walked into the room. "Over here," he said unnecessarily.
The Doctor arrived next to him first and efficiently swung open his medical tricorder. He frowned happily. "She appears to have a broken arm. Other than that there seems to be no serious damage."
"Well that's good to know," she responded through the metal, in obvious pain.
The Doctor's frown intensified.
"She has a sense of humour," Chakotay pointed out.
"Yeah Doc," Tom agreed, standing behind them with Tuvok. "It's something you might try developing on occasion."
Grinning as the Doctor harrumphed, Chakotay tapped at his tricorder. "Okay, I've located the stress points of this...mess. Looks like we can move this bulkhead up enough for her to get out without disturbing too much of the debris." Snapping the tricorder shut he shoved it into the holder around his waist. "Paris and Tuvok - grab the end of the bulkhead over there. When I say 'go', lift it up as much as you can and I'll reach in and help our friend here out."
"What about me?" The Doctor asked.
"You stand ready to treat her arm. You ready?" He asked Paris and Tuvok. They nodded. "Are *you* ready?" He asked the woman trapped under the bulkhead.
"Do it," she said.
Shaking his head with a wry grin he bent down next to the bulkhead. "Ready... go!"
Tom and Tuvok heaved as much weight as they could. Tom swore and their arms bulged, but they managed to keep the section of bulkhead up long enough for Chakotay to help her out and into the clear.
As they both stood a little unsteadily and he saw her face, Chakotay was suddenly struck by a severe case of déjà vu. Blinking, he forced a smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Commander Chakotay, First Officer of the Starship Voyager."
Tuvok and Tom lowered the bulkhead, just narrowly missing Tom's toe. "Christ! That was close!"
Nodding, she also smiled. "I am J'Tan, First Officer to nobody. Thank you for helping me." Her left arm was held at a strange angle, but with her good arm she reached up and placed the palm of her hand against his forehead. Out of respect he didn't move, but when she saw his shocked reaction she quickly removed the hand. "I'm sorry. I frequently forget to explain some of my society's customs. That's how we greet each other."
He nodded his understanding and extended his right hand. "This is how most humans greet each other."
Looking down at his hand, she copied his action and watched as he grabbed onto hers and they shook hands. "Interesting." She looked back up, still holding his hand. "It is also a...pleasure?" She paused until he nodded. "To meet you, Commander Chakotay. You have a very flat forehead."
"I'm sure he does," The Doctor interrupted "but you can discuss the flatness of the Commander's forehead at another time. Right now I really should get you to sickbay to treat your arm."
"Go ahead." She complied, releasing Chakotay's hand. "I suppose you'll want to know about what happened here as well."
Tuvok spoke. "If Ms J'Tan does not mind, Mr Paris and I will remain here for some time to continue going over the ship."
"Of course. I only hope you can do better things with it than I could." Turning to face the Doctor and Chakotay, she smiled. "Shall we?"
Unsure if he should smile or roll his eyes, the Doctor attempted to do both as he tapped his com badge. "Doctor to Voyager. Three to beam directly to sickbay."
They vanished in a sparkling display.
Tuvok tapped his com badge.
Kathryn had a bad feeling about this latest rescue mission. She didn't know what it was exactly...she didn't think the alien ship itself posed a threat, or even that any survivor would try to attack them...she just had a bad feeling.
Coffee was a good idea right about now.
She didn't get the chance.
"Tuvok to Janeway."
Startled, she paused half-way from getting up from her chair to arriving at the replicator. "Go ahead."
"We have located one survivor. A female named J'Tan from an unknown race. She has been taken to sickbay with the Doctor and Commander Chakotay to be treated for mild injuries that were caused by her unfortunate seclusion under a bulkhead."
As he spoke Kathryn thumped down into her chair. She knew it. She just knew it. "Tuvok..."
"Is she blonde?"
His reply was slow in coming, no doubt as he tried to conclude quite why she needed to know hair colour. "Yes."
Kathryn muttered to herself. Then headed towards sickbay.
J'Tan's arm was healing nicely and she had just completed her story when the sickbay doors opened. Chakotay turned to watch Kathryn walk in, frowning heavily. When she realised she was being watched she quickly forced a smile but he could tell something was wrong. She approached the biobed and didn't look at him at all.
"Hello. I'm Captain Janeway. J'Tan, I believe?"
Sitting up on the biobed, J'Tan held out her hand. The Captain stared at her. J'Tan smiled. "Commander Chakotay told me that this is how most humans greet each other."
Kathryn opened her mouth. "Oh, I see." They shook hands quickly. "Chakotay is quite correct."
The First Officer did a double-take at the use of his first name. She wasn't averse to using it, especially when they were alone together or even in front of the crew...but in front of a complete stranger? It wasn't anything to signal a red alert over, but it was a little strange.
He was probably reading too much into it. It was entirely possible that it was a slip-up. Then again...
"May I show you how we greet each other?" J'Tan asked the Captain, who nodded. Reaching out her hand, she performed the same movement she had on Chakotay. Smiling her thanks, J'Tan removed her hand and shook her head. "*All* humans have such flat foreheads."
Kathryn smiled - perhaps the first genuine one since she entered the room - and Chakotay took the opportunity to study both women. While there were some significant differences between them - J'Tan was quite a bit taller, had blonde hair and a raised forehead - they were more alike than Kathryn would probably like to admit. They had the same strong but elegant chin and similar bone structure in the whole of the face. J'Tan's personality even reminded him of Kathryn somewhat. He thought back to his meeting with the alien woman and recalled the moment of déjà vu. He didn't know why, but it seemed important...
"That's because it is."
He was still on Voyager. He was still in sickbay. No one was moving. Who the hell had spoken?
"Kathryn? Kathryn? J'Tan?" He looked between the two women who were still smiling at each other. Of course, if he didn't get this figured out they could stay smiling at each other for the rest of eternity. "Is anyone there?"
"Oh stop your whining. Of course someone's here."
And in a flash...a man appeared.
"Who the hell are you?" Chakotay asked, having a sickening idea that he didn't quite want to admit.
The man splayed his arms out dramatically. "Q!"
"You're not Q."
"Not the Q you met anyway. Your Captain had a brief encounter with me but I was much different then. I'm-"
"Q Junior. You're Q's son."
The man harrumphed in a scarily similar impression of the Doctor. "I am *not* Q Junior. Yes, I am Q's son, but I'm not a Junior."
"I apologise," Chakotay answered insincerely "What should I call you?"
"Very well, Q. Would you kindly unfreeze time so we can get back to our conversation?"
Q held up a hand. "Not yet. I was right when I said your 'déjà vu' is important. Although it's not actually déjà vu, it's a memory of your first encounter with a blonde under a bulkhead. Remember your little love letter?"
"How the hell-"
"Please, I'm Q. Of course, you don't remember writing the letter, but you've found it now and read it. I'm sure it mentions how you two first met. Then of course, there's your rescue of another blonde from under another bulkhead when you discovered another Starfleet ship in the Delta Quadrant. Rescuing people in distress if a laudable goal - for mortals - and you seem to think there's nothing wrong with that."
Chakotay shook his head, confused. "Of course there isn't!"
"Ah, but you're wrong." He strolled around the room, casually observing the layout of sickbay. "Have you realised that something bad has happened to every blonde under a bulkhead that you've saved? The first one had her memory completely wiped and the second - as you remember - betrayed the ship before changing her mind, helping you, and then getting killed in the process. Face it; you're a bad luck charm."
Q paused next to the biobed, looking between the two women. "No, it's not. Remember, I know everything. I know what's going to happen to this one. Seems that my father put a little curse on your...shall we say, encounters? If you get more than a little friendly with them then..."
Chakotay walked towards him as if he could possibly threaten a Q. "She's going to die?!"
"Oh no, no. Calm down." He grinned. "How do you think she'll cope with one leg?"
The First Officer ran his hand over his face. "You're *serious*. Can't you do anything to stop it from happening?"
"No. My father is one of the more powerful Q."
"Then why are you telling me?"
"Because you have the power to stop it from happening. There is one way to break the curse..."
"What? What is it?"
Smiling, Q placed his hands behind his back, turned away from Chakotay and nodded towards Kathryn. "Her." He looked back. "My father knows how you feel about her and because she helped him in the past he would like to return the favour. If you...get friendly with her, then nothing untoward will happen to any blondes you encounter. And believe me, you'll be saving a substantial amount of lives and limbs by doing this. With the amount of blondes you go through-"
"You can't be serious." Chakotay replied, unable to believe it.
Chakotay shrugged. "Even if I wanted to, there's nothing to say that Kathryn is. The times that I've suggested something more than friendship I've always been rejected."
Q nodded, folding his arms across his chest. "And when was the last time you asked?"
The human frowned for a moment, trying to recall. "I guess it has been a while..."
"Two years," Q informed him. "A lot can happen in two years."
"And a lot can stay the same." Chakotay countered.
"Perhaps," was all he was willing to admit "but you don't know that if you don't even ask."
Chakotay said nothing, instead stepping around Q to study the two women. How was he supposed to believe something like this? But could he take the chance, really? If he did nothing he'd be responsible for causing J'Tan pain. And Kathryn...he stared at her. The smile. The laughter in her eyes. She never had enough of that.
"Alright," he said quietly, still looking at Kathryn, resting a hand against the biobed. "But why are you doing this, really?"
It was some time before Q answered. Chakotay didn't move.
"I was curious as to why my father finds you Starfleet types so fascinating. So...I watched. It shouldn't be interesting, it really shouldn't. I tell myself that I should be doing something more constructive but I don't. To a Q, I suppose watching your lives is like watching television was to 20th Century Terrans. You like what you see, but on occasion you want to rewrite the way the script is going."
Laughing, Chakotay rubbed his hands over his face once more. "You're very different from your father."
Q laughed. "If I were a blonde I might be worried." He clicked his fingers and vanished.
Kathryn jumped at Chakotay's sudden nearness. "Chakotay..?"
"Kathryn, can I have a word privately? It's urgent."
She began to balk at the use of her name but agreed and followed him out of sickbay with a "Just a moment," thrown over her shoulder for J'Tan's benefit.
The doors closed and they stood opposite each other in the corridor. Gods, how was he going to say this? "Would you like to have dinner tonight?" Well, there it was.
Kathryn frowned. "Of course. We usually-"
"I mean...not as friends. As...something else."
Her eyes went wide, but part of her couldn't help but be amused at his vagueness. "Something else? You mean brother and sister?"
"Kathryn, this is hard enough as it is-"
"I'm sorry, really. I didn't mean to make fun of you. I'm just-"
"Scared?" He asked bluntly.
"I didn't say that. But I do have concerns..."
"Of course you do but..." He lowered his head, searching for the words. "I really think this could be something worthwhile, Kathryn."
She stared up at him and he didn't look away, matching her gaze. "Okay," she said softly. "I'm not promising anything, but I'll have dinner with you tonight. As...something else."
She smiled and as she did so Chakotay grinned, a grin so big that it threatened to cover his whole face. It felt as if a great many weights had been lifted from his shoulders.
Trying to ease the emotional moment, she spoke. "So, I guess you really don't want a close encounter with a blonde under a bulkhead, hmm?"
"No. I'd much rather have a close encounter with a redhead against a bulkhead."
e-mail // voyager fic