Disclaimer: Paramount owns all the characters, except those I make up and Voyager. Elton John & Bernie Taupin wrote the songs on the album, “The Big Picture” I claim none of it.
They say that it is cold in space. That is one thing, but it’s another when it’s cold where it should be hot, or at least warm.
Warmth had left them long ago. They sat like two bookends, not knowing the other was pushing against the stack to the other. Or perhaps they did, only too stubborn to really admit that that was what they were doing.
No one could figure out who was trying to outwit who, who was trying to hide it the most. At this stage of the game, they had nothing to hide. The crew knew of the chemistry, professional and private. No other pair on the ship could stop conversation in mid-sentence nor fork half way to mouth. At least nothing short of Seven stripping down to nothing and doing the hootchie-cootchie on a table top.
After six years, it was so easy to see. The fire that had once burned deep within the dark brown eyes stopped. There was no twinkling anymore. No crooked smile reserved for only her, but one that everyone on board knew about.
Then again who could blame him. There are only so many times one can be told ‘no thank you’ and ‘I’m not in the mood’. Many would have given up after the first few declinations. Surely after a month, six months, a year—finally stretching into six years. The only thing that had lasted longer was Tuvok’s apparent lack of pon-farr and the doctor coming up with a name.
It was so sudden, so blatant. There was no big scene in eithers quarters, the ready room, a shuttle trip with just the two. Neelix was the first to notice it. That at the Prixin celebration, they didn’t go near each other, talk to one another or even stand together during the annual toast to the Voyager family.
“Ah, Mr. Tuvok, have you noticed anything out of the ordinary with the captain or commander Chakotay?”
“If you mean the lack of communication during a public gathering, I’d have to say yes.”
Indeed, the eyes of the ever faithful Vulcan had been keeping an eye on them. He noted the calm, yet cool way they addressed each other. No longer on the bridge, did they lean over the center console and talk in low voices and whispers. Their bodies turned away from each other. He noticed that the light step the commander used to use when called to the ready room existed no more.
He watched them the rest of the evening. He saw the muted looks of others watching them. Those that knew them most privately and more intimately. The commander spent much of the time, looking out the port windows, staring out into the stars.
Even when the captain gave her speech.
Commander Chakotay left a short time later with a small nod of his head.
He sat in the low light of his quarters. The casual shirt worn to the celebration was again hanging in his closet, next to many of his other off duty clothes. Off duty…he had to chuckle at that one. Off duty clothes were one step up from ‘maquis every day wear’. He leaned back and closed his eyes, his nostrils inhaling the light woodsy scent.
“Since when do you not answer your door?”
Chakotay looked up and saw her silhouetted in the light from the corridor. She was still dressed in her white shirt and cream colored pants. Her head was slightly downcast.
“Since I didn’t really hear it, Kathryn.”
She stepped in enough for the door to shut behind her. With her arms crossed behind her back, she walked around, looking at the things on his shelves, the painting on the walls, the new projects he was working on at his desk.
“You know, I can count the number of times I’ve been in these quarters. Twice with Cavit, five with you.” She chuckled slightly, ignoring his eyes. “Seven times in six years.”
Kathryn looked up, her fair falling over one eye. “Pardon?”
“You’ve been here four times.”
“ I remember five.”
“Then you must have been here when I wasn’t. I can tell you the dates and the circumstances for each visit too,” he said, looking at her, “except tonight.”
“I guess I deserved that.” Kathryn went to his table, leaning on the chair pushed in. “Oh, Chakotay. Why do we do this?”
“I don’t know Kathryn, why don’t you explain it to me.”
She snorted, then looked at him. Her eyes shown in the low light, her cheeks darkened by the natural shadows.
“I can’t explain it, Chakotay. Sometimes, I wish I could.”
“So do I.” Chakotay rose, moving to his desk and looking down at the flat box with swirled colors of sand. “Everyone notices it, so I guess that’s why you are here, to tell me to stop wearing my heart on my sleeve.”
“Actually,” she paused, thinking, “I guess that is why I am here.”
“Let me finish this conversation for you and save you the time, Kathryn. I’ve been showing too much, letting my emotions cloud my judgment. Sorry ma’am, it won’t happen again. I will go back to being the same happy-go-lucky man I always am and hope that nothing happens.”
“That isn’t fair Chakotay,” she began, taking two small steps toward him.
“No Kathryn, it isn’t. I mean, it’s hard to do anything for you,” he held up his hands for the incoming argument, “I am content to follow your parameters. I really am. Granted, I fail every once in a while. But you tell me you’ve been here a total of six, seven times in six years, I wonder why. Then it dawns on me; we always take our dinners in your quarters because there you can be in charge. You can decide when you want to sleep, when you want to pour out some feeling or longing. Here, you’d have to actually listen and think.”
“Chakotay, that isn’t the reason.”
“No? You know, I’m surprised you ever had any romance in your life. I ask you time and again to join in some activity; pool, skiing, holo-programs. You always decline.”
“I don’t have time for luxury, Chakotay. My goal is, and has always been, to get this crew home.”
Chakotay looked up, then turned around, looking at her. “No time.” He laughed, slapping his hands on his thighs. “Are you blind to only what you can’t see?”
Kathryn looked at him as though he might have lost his mind. She ran a hand through her shoulder length hair and sighed. She wasn’t sure what he was striving at, but she could feel the impending argument brewing. “Blind to what?”
Chakotay started a small chuckle, which turned into a full fledged laugh. “I guess you are.” He regained control of his composure, “you don’t have time. Don’t you know all I do so you have time to be a human? I guess not since you aren’t answering.”
He walked over to his shelf and brought down a small wooden box with a leaf carved into it. He opened it, removing a small black velvet pouch.
“I was saving this for the right time. Maybe a birthday, maybe a Prixin celebration, maybe with a Valentines heart. What do I do?” Chakotay handed her the pouch, closing her long fingers over it. “I keep order within the ranks. I organize crew rosters, set up cabin assignments. I doll out the rations every week. I keep close tabs on our stores and supplies. I handle discipline, heading off much of it before it gets to you. I go over the previous shift rotation to take care of problems before they reach your desk. I assign special tasks. Not to mention, touring the ship, consoling crew members, arguing with your protégé, keeping our chief engineer from ripping the said protégé a new ass hole. What thanks do I get? A ‘I have so much to do’ and a smile.”
Kathryn looked up at him, then down to the pouch, then back to him, then she took her other hand and opened the drawstring carefully. She shook the bag, dropping the content into her palm. A silver pocket watch with chain.
“I don’t understand,” she began.
“That is right, Kathryn. You don’t. Not only have you managed to extinguish any flame I ever had for you, but you have been chipping away at our friendship until there is nothing there but a pile of dust. I could live with the thought of never being anything more to you then a friend. But when you started in on that, treating me like nothing, it was the end.”
“I release you Kathryn. I take back all the energy I ever gave to you, willingly or when you needed it.” He went to his door, holding out his hand. “I promise to remain your first officer, doing the duties you spelled out that first night of our coexistence. But I can no longer spend my life waiting, expending energy I no longer have on something that only one person seems to see.”
Kathryn moved toward the door, staring at the watch, not wanting to look up into his face. She couldn’t and dared not.
“It takes two to make a friendship. For a while now, I’ve been the only one trying. Go, and God speed, Kathryn. I wish you well, but what we were no longer exists.”
Kathryn stepped through the door out into the corridor, the door shutting on her. She stood there for the longest time, staring at the watch in her hand. The door had shut on her, and she hadn’t heard it.
With small steps and never looking up, she went down the corridor to her own quarters.
Kathryn had stood for a long time in front of her full length mirror, looking at her image. The watch sat on her desk on the main room, far from her sight at present, which was fine with her.
Her hands started at her head, moving down. Her hair stopping just short of brushing her shoulders, her skin cold to her own touch. They skimmed down over satin clad body, moving over the contours and curves, stopping at her thigh.
The hair. It was the first thing she noticed. She’d told everyone it was practicality. She was the captain. She had not time to fuss every morning with it. That is what she’d told people upon seeing her. Kathryn had joked it off. Now, she let the real reason come to the surface.
It had started when Kes had jump started into Elogium. It was the first time she’d caught him looking at it. From time to time, she’d catch him, glimpsing at the brownish-red locks. He’d even handled them once, on a planet a long way behind them.
Kathryn had went to Samantha one morning and asked for her to cut it off in a style similar to hers. Samantha had and Kathryn looked at herself and told her to take two more inches off her hair. It was slowly done and looking at it, she smiled.
Looking into her mirror now, the smile slowly faded to nothing. It was a little longer now, having kept it trimmed. Her hands moved to her nightgown. A lovely peachy-pink number with spaghetti thin straps and a slit that went mid thigh. With a heavy sigh, Kathryn reached down, pulling the garment over her head, leaving her clad in a matching pair of underpants. Her arm threw the garment into an unceremonious heap in her chair. She reached into her drawer and pulled out a flannel gown of lavender that had long sleeves and went to her ankles.
This was comfort. The flannel represented warmth. Why had she bothered with the satin? Who would see her in it? Whose hands would run over the material, bunching it up as his trailed his hands? It represented the feminine side she never allowed herself to show.
Her hands trailed up to her hair, ruffling the short strands, then she crawled into her bed, reaching for the book she’d pulled out the night before. Her eyes scanned over text with doomed lovers.
She never noticed the single tear sliding down the side of her nose.
It had to be one of the hardest things a man who loved could ever do to a woman who didn’t—wasn’t sure. The energy he’d wasted didn’t come back immediately. Indeed, it was slow in recovery. The smoke dimmed and soon, they were friendly, but those who watched noticed the warmth was only on the surface.
No more invitations to play were given, nor were invitations to dinner. Weekly informal meetings took place in one or the others office with nothing more then a cup of tea or coffee in front of each. He no longer went out of his way for her, letting her have back some of the responsibility he’d shouldered for years. She no longer saw him within minutes of retreating to her ready room.
The crew hated the new feeling. It was like the calm before the storm. The proverbial Chakotay represented the calm surface, turbulent beneath with Kathryn the stone that skipped along the surface.
Something had to break the surface.
The End Will Come
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