Disclaimer - Paramount own them.
A sequel of sorts to Free.
I will write some J/C, I promise.
When had it happened? When had he forgotten to notice a member of the crew?
As First Officer it had fallen to him to help maintain morale; arranging shore leave, granting Neelix whatever authority he needed to plan a celebration, offering a shoulder for any member of the crew who needed to talk or simply be with someone.
The Doctor also offered the last option; the counselling information he had integrated into his programme when Seven was having difficulty recalling her memories provided him with far more expertise and qualifications than Chakotay's talks could ever have.
There were those who would argue that the Doctor didn't have four decades worth of life experience. Chakotay knew better. The Doctor carried inside him the culmination of forty-seven geniuses; the greatest medical minds that Lewis Zimmerman had access to.
So why didn't the crew ever seek the Doctor out for anything other than medical advice?
Yes, he was brusque. Yes, he was sarcastic. Neither were his fault. How could he be anything else from the combination of having such a brilliant mind and being so badly treated since the moment he was activated?
The crew's reaction to him had played more than a small role in defining his level of development, of exactly how far he could go and how much he could achieve. Beyond that he had to ask or simply hope that someone would understand, that even a single person would speak up that this wasn't how it should be, that it wasn't right.
Life was rarely how it should be.
There was someone, once, who would be the Doctor's champion when he became discouraged - something that was frankly understandable. She was gone now. Had been for a long time.
There was another who spoke up for him now on occasion, voicing her fears when it had been revealed that the Captain had erased his memories, unilaterally deciding that it was 'best' for him.
Chakotay remembered it well; something of an irony. Remembered how he had doubted that they were doing the right thing, that perhaps there was another option.
Yet he had said nothing.
The thought of it then sickened him, and it sickened him now to recall how he had acquiesced, doing nothing as Kathryn deleted something as precious as *memories*, the very things that made them who they are.
It had worked though. The Doctor was fine. His usual acerbic self, but he was fine and Chakotay took comfort in that.
What kind of person took comfort in that?
It would be so easy to blame Kathryn, to say with confidence that he became like that the day he became her First Officer. So easy to imagine that in the Maquis he would never have tolerated such a violation; that he would have fought for the underdog the way he always had.
In the end - as with so many things - it came to down to one thing: racism.
The almighty Federation was proud of its tolerant facade. The HQ - set on Earth of course - welcomed all with open arms. Good for PR, but nothing like reality.
They gave Vulcans a complete lack of respect, snickered as the Ferengi lifestyle, and assumed that all Klingons spent their time waving Bat'leths and drinking blood wine.
The clichés of different cultures that were inherent in Earth's past were just as inherent in it's present and - he was absolutely certain - its future.
And he was no different. Even knowing this, even knowing all this, he still thought all Cardassians were murderers. His hatred of the Borg had stopped him from getting to really know Seven for a long time.
All of these cultures had glorious histories, and it wasn't his place, nor anybody's, to say whether a Ferengi should become a renewed scientist, or whether a Klingon should be known over a whole galaxy for his green fingers.
He should have known so much better. Chief, Red and other nicknames and profanities had been more than an infrequent occurrence in his life. Chakotay had endured the insults, the racism, never once believing himself guilty of the same thing.
He had failed in his job as First Officer. He had failed in his job as a person.
Something must be done. Restitution must be made.
The Doctor stood inside the doorway of Chakotay's office, frowning. "You asked to see me Commander."
Standing from his desk, Chakotay stepped around it and approached. Holding out the PADD he held in his hand, he spoke. "I thought you might find this interesting."
Taking the PADD, the Doctor's frown intensified as he read. "'Deck 8, section 3, room 17'. What is this?"
"Your quarters," Chakotay told him, trying not to smile too much at the expression of astonishment that greeted the statement. "I thought it was about time," He emphasised the last word, knowing it was so late in coming.
Clutching the PADD to his chest with splayed hands, the Doctor opened his mouth a few times before actually speaking. "Thank you." Seeming unable to say anything else, he turned away.
He paused with his back still towards him, saying nothing.
Chakotay continued. "You're going to have a room warming party, aren't you?"
The Doctor chortled, but it sounded...different. "Of course. I'm sure Mr Neelix has pulled up the colour scheme for my quarters already. I hear that bright orange and fluorescent yellow go together marvellously."
The doors opened and he was gone.
Rubbing a hand over his face, Chakotay sighed. There was so much to be done. This was only the beginning.
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