Proper Order

DISCLAIMER: All the characters belong to someone and something
else, but I borrowed them for awhile. This is a non-profit
exercise, so I hope no one minds that I played with them. This
story may be reproduced and/or archived using any method you
choose, but please contact me first and leave the disclaimer
and author/E-mail information intact.

Apologies also to Jeri Taylor for my interpretation of some of
the events that took place in “Mosaic.”

RATED “R” for language and implied situations. Probably
nothing worse than what’s on T.V., but it’s better to be safe
than sorry.

Copyright 1998 by NODA. E-mail: flint@ballcom.com

SUMMARY: Chakotay discovers the real reason Kathryn has been
avoiding getting closer.

*PROPER ORDER*

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO YOUR HAIR?” Chakotay gasped as he entered
Kathryn Janeway’s ready room.

“I cut it,” she replied, stating the obvious.

“I can see that, but WHY?”

“Not that it’s any of your business,” she said, leaning back
in her desk chair, “but I was tired of having to do something
with it every day.”

“You could have left it down.”

Janeway gave him her best “Captain’s stare” and said, “You
and I both know it’s unprofessional.”

“But did you have to be so drastic?”

“Chakotay, I don’t know why this is such an issue with you!
It’s not like I dyed it purple or anything!”

`I almost wish you had,’ he thought. He had never thought of
his Captain as “frumpy,” but that was the word that come to
mind as he gazed at her, working at her desk.

“It’s just that it’s such a . . . .” `Shock,’ he wanted to
say, but he held his tongue, as he allowed his voice to drift
away.

Janeway stood, placing her palms on the desk and leaned towards
him. “Commander, if you chose to remove your tattoo, I
wouldn’t take it as a personal affront. Why are you taking
this so personally?”

`Because I lie awake at night and dream of running my fingers
through that hair,’ he thought to himself, but he didn’t
dare voice it. Ever since New Earth, Kathryn had kept a wall
between them. Not an unbreachable wall, but a definite barrier,
especially when she felt he was getting too personal. They
shared meals and conversation, but he knew she had him at arms
length.

“Are those the crew evaluations?” She asked, indicating the
PADD he held limply in his hand.

“Um, yes,” he answered, trying to pull himself together. He
handed her the data pad and she added it to the stack on her
desk.

“I’ll look at this in a moment. You’re welcome to have a seat
and wait if you like.”

Chakotay took her up on her offer. Apparently she had decided
the subject of her new hairstyle had been closed, continuing
with her work as if he hadn’t mentioned it.

That was one of the first things he had noticed about her.
When she made up her mind or closed a subject, it was final.
She’d been known to relent one or twice, but it had to be her
decision, her idea to back down. Fortunately, he usually
agreed with her.

He watched her go over the pile of reports, almost oblivious to
the fact that he was watching her. He knew that being the
center of attention, as Captains were, caused you to learn how
to shut out staring eyes. He had done it on his ship, and
although he was the Second in Command on *Voyager*, he still
had to deal with a room full of eyes following his every move.
You either got used to being watched or got off the Bridge.

Kathryn looked up momentarily and smiled at her First Officer,
who was patiently waiting for her to get to his report. She
supposed she shouldn’t be angry with him for his reaction to
her hair, after all, wasn’t it his response she had been
looking forward to? What good was a change in appearance if no
one commented on it? But he had taken it to extremes, and had
begun to embarrass her. Sarcasm had been her only defense
against her uncomfortable feelings.

“Help yourself to the replicator,” she said, rubbing her neck
as a headache started working it’s way to her forehead.

Chakotay noticed the unconscious ministrations she gave
herself, but didn’t offer to help. The last time he gave her a
neck rub he confessed his affections for her, creating kind of
an awkward truce between them. After all his comments about
her hair, he didn’t want to remind her of that intimate moment
so long ago, and cause her to shut down again.

“Can I get you something? Looks like you’ve got a headache
coming on.”

“You’re perceptive, as always,” she said with sincerity.
“How about some of that herbal tea your always proclaiming the
benefits of?”

He smiled and asked the computer for “Chakotay tea blend number
four.”

A steaming mug appeared, which he delivered to Kathryn. “Here
you go; this should help.”

She took a sip. “Not bad. I hope it works as well as your
neck rubs,” she hinted.

Chakotay knew this was about as close as she would get when she
was asking something for herself. Hew crew or anyone else she
could blatantly make requests for, but she was a different
story. It wasn’t that she lacked the confidence to ask for
what she wanted, it was more like an act of sacrifice, the way
a parent would put aside personal desires for the sake of their
child. There was no question in Chakotay’s mind that she felt
as responsible as a parent towards her crew. Maybe even more
so.

He stepped behind her and placed his large hands on her
shoulders. She was incredibly tense, and wondered how much he
had contributed to that tension.

“Don’t forget, you’re the one who asked for this,” he said,
kneading his thumbs into her lower neck.

“What is that supposed to mean?” She asked, trying not to
sound as paranoid as she was beginning to feel.

“Only that the last time I performed this act for you we moved
onto some rather personal ground.”

Kathryn sighed. “I know.” There was a long silence as
Chakotay waited for her to elaborate. He almost broke the
quiet himself, but suddenly she continued.

“I know I’ve put you in an awkward position Chakotay. On the
one hand I respect and need you as a first officer, and on the
other I really care about you on a personal level. Don’t you
think I know how I string you along? It isn’t on purpose, it’s
just that I don’t know how to be your Captain and more than
just a friend at the same time.”

Now it was Chakotay’s chance to be reflective. “I know of the
inner conflicts you face. I suppose it was one of the reasons
I had to tell you of my feelings with a story. I did it
because of my own fears of rejection, but also so you didn’t
feel you had to reciprocate and claim a deeper affection for
me. I just wanted, and still want you to know that I’m here
for you and I’m willing to wait.”

She turned around to face him. The serious look on his face
caused her to reach up and caress his cheek. “I can’t ask you
to do that.”

“You didn’t ask. I offered.”

“But what if I can never reconcile these feelings?”

“Are things so bad now? I’m perfectly happy with the way
things are, as long as we don’t start denying that we’re
attracted to each other.”

“Sooner or later you’re going to want more from this
relationship. I don’t expect you’re going to live the rest of
your life as a monk.”

“Who says I have to live like a monk?” He said, an amused grin
turning up the corners of his mouth. “Think you’re the only
babe in space?”

She raised the hand she had just used to caress him and now
threatened to strike him with it.

“Okay! All right! You *are* the only babe in space!” Placing
his hands once again on her shoulders he said,

“Seriously, if it gets to be a problem we’ll talk about it,
Okay? You’ve already given me more than I had hoped for.”

Kathryn’s throat choked with emotion. “What did I ever do to
deserve you?”

“Destroyed the Array and `assimilated’ my crew for starters,”
he smiled.

“Resistance was futile,” she countered, wondering if Seven of
Nine would be offended had she heard their comments.

Just then, a stack of PADD’s crashed to the floor, reminding
Kathryn of her back-log of work. “I guess I’ll have to wait on
your report Commander,” Janeway said, once again all business.
“These seem to be clamoring for my attention.”

“Meet me for dinner in the Mess Hall?” He asked, purposely
choosing a public spot so she didn’t get the idea he had any
“ideas.” “Maybe you can give me your answer on the report’s
proposal.”

“Sound’s good,” she replied, already buried back in her work.

“1800 hours?”

“It’s a date,” she smiled at him briefly before turning her
attention back to the reports littering her desk.

*********

Chakotay arrived in the Mess Hall only moments before Kathryn.
Acknowledging her with a nod, he walked over to where B’Elanna
was sitting with Tom, Harry and Seven of Nine. Seven sat ram-
rod straight, looking uncomfortable sitting between the two
men, although Harry was attempting to explain Tom’s joke to
her, in an effort to help her join in the conversation.

B’Elanna felt a warm hand on her shoulder and looked up into
the face of her former commanding officer. “Chakotay! Pull up
a seat!”

“I’d love to join you, but the Captain and I have some things
to discuss.”

“What about my, I mean `our’ proposal?”

“That’s one of the things we have to talk about.”

“One of the things?” Tom questioned, hinting that there were
more, and it was of a personal nature. “A nice, intimate
dinner for two an it’s going to be all `shop talk?'”

Chakotay glanced around the crowded dining hall. “If this is
your idea of `intimate’ Paris, I hope you and B’Elanna never
get into `group’ sex!”

B’Elanna lashed out with her arm and punched him in the
stomach, none too lightly.

“Ow! Tom, it’s amazing you’re still walking!”

“There’s days I wonder if I’m going to live! Of course I could
make things a lot easier on myself if I’d learn to keep my
mouth shut!”

“*That* will be the day!” B’Elanna countered, trying to keep
the smile from her face. It was evident from the way she
looked at Tom, how much she loved him, even as she verbally
assaulted him.

Seven of Nine listened to the exchange with confusion. Harry
had explained to her that Tom and B’Elanna were seeing each
other in a romantic capacity, but her behavior perplexed Seven.
If she were interested in the pilot as a potential mate, why
did she continually attack him, both with words and punches?

“Better not keep the Captain waiting,” Chakotay said, noticing
that Kathryn had already accepted a plate from Neelix and was
heading towards an open table. “Have a good evening,” he
wished them.

Chakotay felt, more than actually heard the group speculate on
his dinner meeting with the Captain. He knew from regular
ship-board gossip they would be betting on how much of the meal
was actually business and how much was personal. However, with
Paris present, he was sure there were actual bets being placed.

Janeway glanced up as Chakotay took a seat at the table.

“Commander,” she said in recognition.

`So it *was* going to be strictly business,’ he thought.
Accepting that he asked,

“Did you have time to look at the proposal?”

Kathryn eyed the mass on her fork with suspicion. “Yes I did.
It’s intriguing.”

“‘Intriguing,'” he repeated. “Is that good or bad?”

“It means I need more information before I can give you an
answer.” Kathryn pulled out the PADD to refresh her memory.
“You say here that you think crew performance would be improved
if there were more of a `challenge’ to their jobs. If we’re in
a particularly dead area of space, like we are now, how do we
create these `challenges?'”

“There’s been some conjecture if we did some switching, moved
people around, it would keep things interesting, keep people
from becoming too complacent about their duties.”

Janeway picked up a cup containing a brown liquid, which Neelix
had the nerve to call his version of “coffee.” Cradling the
china in her hands she said, “How would you do it? I think
the idea of having the crew cross-trained is an excellent one,
but there are some, say the people in Sciences, who would be
unsuitable, for example, Security.”

She thought of Lt. Tyler in particular. While he was a
brilliant physicist, she could hardly see him hauling his bulk
around the ship chasing after an intruder. He’d be out of
breath before he jogged down one corridor. A smile crept to
her face as she imagined the scene. Tyler would give it his
best shot or die trying.

Chakotay noted her grin and pressed his advantage. “I was
thinking about offering it on a volunteer basis. There are
many who are perfectly happy where their at, but I also believe
there are some who would benefit from a change.”

Janeway could see his point. She wasn’t immune to the effects
of the boredom they had faced recently. She was almost happy
when something malfunctioned so she had something new to think
about rather than reports stating that nothing had changed.

“Sounds good Chakotay, we’ll implement it on the Alpha Shift
tomorrow.”

“I can’t take credit for this,” he said. “It was more
B’Elanna’s idea.”

“B’Elanna’s?” She asked, turning to look at her Chief Engineer
whom she caught looking quickly away. “Why didn’t she suggest
this herself?”

“I think she’s still a little apprehensive about approaching
you after the dressing down you gave her and Tom a few weeks
ago.”

“When those aliens were experimenting on us?” She said,
unconsciously putting her hand to her forehead in memory of the
pain they had inflicted.

“I apologized to both her and Tom. While I didn’t approve of
their actions, I told them *I* was out of line as well with my
reprimand.”

“Yes, well, I think she still is a little embarrassed about the
whole episode. She knew they were acting juvenile, but was
kind of swept up in the whole new romance thing.”

Kathryn looked over at Tom and B’Elanna again. They were
holding hands, staring into each other’s eyes, hanging on each
other’s every word. She too knew the giddy feeling of a new
relationship. Not only from the past but from her current
circumstances as well. It was easy to get carried away in the
euphoria. Perhaps that’s what she was so afraid of, and why
she had been so hard on the young couple. She saw herself in
them and didn’t want to repeat their indiscretions.

Chakotay noted her far-off gaze. “Kathryn? Something wrong?”

“Hmmm? Oh. No, I just was noticing Tom and B’Elanna. They
seem very happy, don’t they?”

He followed her line of sight and looked at the couple with a
slight feeling of envy. They were so open with their feelings
for each other. Not caring who saw them or who watched. If
only he and Kathryn could be so carefree. But he knew they
would attract much more attention then the junior officers did.

“I can’t say it’s a match I would have made, but B’Elanna seems
happy. Maybe the happiest I’ve ever seen her. I have to give
him credit for that.”

“Well all I know is there are a lot of broken hearts on this
ship, now that Tom is effectively `out of commission,'” she
said, attempting another sip from her cup.

Chakotay felt unreasonably jealous at the comment. “Yourself
among them?”

Janeway laughed so hard she almost choked. “You can’t be
serious! I think there’s bit of a discrepancy in our ages
among other things!” She looked into his eyes and saw a
fleeting look.

“You *are* serious! What on Earth would I possibly see in Tom
beyond a professional and platonic relationship?”

“You do have offspring out there somewhere together.”

She couldn’t believe he was actually persuing this. “I had
about as much choice in that matter as I would have if someone
cloned me from a resonance trace left in the transporter’s
pattern buffer! And believe me, it was about as personal!

Chakotay realized he was being unreasonable. “I’m sorry
Kathryn. I didn’t really think you had a “thing” for Tom, I
suppose I still keep looking for reasons. . . .”

“That I’m being so reticent,” she finished for him. “Believe
me Chakotay, it’s nothing you’ve done or haven’t done. It’s
me. It took me *forever* to move into a relationship with Mark
after Justin.”

“And it’s just a little too soon after Mark for me,” he
finished for her this time.

“Yes, that’s mostly it.”

“Mostly?”

“It’s hard to explain. I *want* to get closer to you, but I’m
scared. Scared of what will happen to our work relationship if
things don’t work out. Scared that I’ll let my personal
feelings color some of my command decisions like away-teams, et
cetera. I can’t afford to be distracted by you.”

Chakotay placed his hand over hers, sliding his fingers under
hers to almost, but not quite grasp them. It was an incredibly
sensual feeling, especially since it was such a non-committal
gesture. “But you already *are* distracted,” he said, his
dark eyes shining.

Kathryn felt a blush creep up her cheeks. Damn him! How could
such an ordinary touch and that grin of his undermine all the
work she’d done to keep things on a professional level?

Tom glanced over at the Captain and Chakotay. “Bingo!” he
cried. “Ten minutes everybody! I told you he couldn’t keep
his hands off her! Time to pay up!”

Harry sighed and handed over his rations. “I thought for sure
they’d keep things under wraps in public.”

“It’s not exactly like he’s raping her on the table,” B’Elanna
grumbled, handing over her own share of rations.

“The bet was `any physical contact.’ You guys didn’t have to
take me up on it. Look at Seven. She knew better!”

“I simply found it demeaning to wager on the personal lives of
the commanding officers.” She said, not wanting anyone to
think she condoned this sort of inferior human behavior.

“I don’t mind losing so much,” B’Elanna said. “You owe me
dinner, and I plan to have every single one of those rations
spent on me.”

“Well he doesn’t owe me dinner,” Harry complained. “I need to
get to the astro-metrics lab before I lose anything else.”

Seven stood and hesitantly asked, “May I join you?”

“Sure!” Harry gleefully replied. Seven never accompanied him
with out his practically badgering her into it.

“You sure know how to clear a room, Paris,” B’Elanna said,
leaning over to kiss him.

“I thought they’d never leave,” he said, returning her kiss.
“Let’s get out of here, it’s starting to feel really crowded in
here.”

Janeway watched her pilot and engineer exit the dining hall.
“At least Tom and B’Elanna have seemed to find a way to break
the monotony,” she said with a crooked grin. Realizing she
was probably leaving Chakotay with an opening to make another
suggestive statement, she tried to change the subject.

“You seem to be able to maintain your focus. What’s your
secret to keep from getting bored?”

“I think about you.”

Janeway coughed. “I thought we settled all this back in my
ready room hours ago.”

“You’re right, we did. I’m sorry I’m pushing again. I *am*
bored with the routine, and since you asked, I’ve got a plan to
wake us both up.”

Kathryn looked at him again, wondering if there was yet another
double meaning in his words. “Go ahead,” she prompted him.

“Why don’t we switch as well.”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“Why don’t we switch places. I’ll be the Captain for awhile
and you can be the First Officer, or maybe a science officer.
You’re always saying you miss having the time to do some
research of your own.”

Kathryn just stared at him. What a ludicrous idea! Give up
command of her ship because she was a trifle bored?”

“Well, what do you think?” he asked, pushing his half-finished
plate away.

“I think you’re crazy! Being a Captain isn’t something you can
just take or leave when
ever the mood strikes you! I have an. . .”

“Obligation to the crew, I know,” he finished for her. “I’ve
been there, remember? And this wouldn’t be the first time
you’ve left the kids with the baby-sitter.”

She gave him a hard stare at his flippant comment. “This isn’t
like I’m turning the bridge over to you for a few hours during
an away mission or when I’m in my ready room! This would be
for, what a week?”

“Actually, I was thinking more like a month.”

“A month! Chakotay, how can you ask me to forget my
responsibilities for a whole month!”

“It’s not like you won’t be here,” he said. “Can’t you just
think of it as an extension of the authority you already give
me?”

“How is this going to look on my record? I was a little bored,
so I just gave up my ship for a month?”

“It doesn’t have to be official. The crew will know, but we
won’t have to put it in the logs.”

“And what about the crew’s personal logs? When we get back you
know Starfleet is going to go over every bit of data with a
fine tooth comb,” she countered.

“Kathryn, you’re grasping at straws. You know you want to do
it, it’s just your damn principles, and parameters,” he added
suggestively, “that are keeping you from taking what you
want.”

He was speaking ambiguously again, saying one thing and yet
taking advantage of the situation to mean another as well.

Kathryn did have to admit the idea of a month in stellar
cartography or one of the science labs would be the best
vacation she could imagine at this point. “Let me think about
it overnight; I’ll give you my answer in the morning.” With
that she disengaged herself from Chakotay’s hand, which still
held hers.

“I think maybe we should call it an evening,” she said, rising
and gathering her dishes to be recycled.

“All right, but I want an answer at the beginning of Alpha
Shift.”

`Oh God,’ Kathryn thought, `he’s already sounding like the
Captain!’

*********

Kathryn walked slowly back to her quarters, giving herself a
chance to weigh the pros and cons of Chakotay and B’Elanna’s
proposal. On the one hand there was the fact she *was* bored.
She’d never experienced a situation where she dreaded going to
work, but it was getting close to that. She wasn’t the only
one affected by these doldrums. Between reports of “no change
in our current status,” and Tuvok informing her that yet
another quarrel had ended up with her crew brawling, they were
all feeling the strain. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to step
down for awhile. Just the thought that she wouldn’t be called
on to settle every minor squabble was refreshing. Was Chakotay
prepared to put up with that? He probably already did; he’d
just be adding to his own load. So why was he “offering” to
switch places with her? What was in it for him? Not that he
had an ulterior motive, but why would he want command of
*Voyager* in this barren region of space? Was it all just for
her benefit? Was this purely an unselfish act on his part?
Why couldn’t she accept that? Maybe he *was* just doing it out
of concern for her state of mind.

`Why do you have to be so suspicious all the time?’ She asked
herself. She would do the same for him, why should it surprise
her that he’d be willing to do it for her?

She rounded a corner along the corridor and stopped before her
door and waited for it to open. She was no nearer a decision
than when she left the Mess Hall. Stepping into her quarters
she called out for the lights, and then added a command for
some soft music as well. She’d have to come to a decision
soon, or she’d have a sleepless night.

*********

Chakotay wandered through the hydroponics bay thinking about
what Kathryn had said. He often came here to think,
especially when he wasn’t ready to head back to his quarters.
He’d been spending entirely too much time there lately and he
felt the need to “get out” more.

Why was she being so stubborn about this, he wondered.
Couldn’t she see that it would do them all some good to
experience new things? He smiled at that as his mind drifted
to a slightly less platonic area. `Now that would *really*
spice things up!’ he thought. Of course if she were worried
about ship’s gossip there couldn’t be a worse time for him to
try and heat things up with her. With nothing to occupy them,
the crew’s imagination would be going into warp drive over
their Captain’s personal life.

He sat down on a bench and breathed the artificial air. At
least there were real plants and flowers scenting that air. He
imagined Kathryn sitting next to him, laughing at some small
joke he had just made. In his mind’s eye, she was relaxed and
flirting with him as much as he was with her. Her blue eyes
would shine in the computer-generated moon light, and when he
leaned close to kiss her, she wouldn’t pull away. . . .

“Oh gods!” Chakotay moaned out loud, he had to stop this line
of thought, he was only going to work himself up into another
sleepless night. Another night of wondering if she were asleep
on the other side of the wall between their quarters and if so,
was she stretched out, one arm across her stomach while the
other lay over her eyes. Or was she curled into a fetal
position, with her blankets and pillow bunched up inside her
arms. What would it be like to lie next to her? To hold her
as her body spooned to his? He could imagine inhaling the
scent of her hair, even this shortened version would be
acceptable, if only he had a chance to encircle her with his
arms. Tan skin on pale, their fingers woven together. . . .

He got up and paced. He had to stop this line of thought!
Hadn’t he just told Kathryn he was handling this? Had he just
said the words to be saying them or had he meant it? At the
time he thought he could back off, let her be the Captain and
he be the First Officer. He was going to do his damnedest to
keep his word, but now he was beginning to wonder if he’d be
able to live up to that promise. He sincerely hoped that she’d
take him up on the offer of a break, it might be easier if she
were off the Bridge and buried in a science department
somewhere below decks. Maybe, but he doubted it.

*********

Chakotay was sitting in his chair as Kathryn strode onto the
bridge. Nodding to the crew, she stood before him, hands on
her hips.

“You’re sitting in the wrong chair,” she said, a smile curling
her lips.

He noticed she had placed only three pips on her turtle neck
that morning, and looked well rested. Apparently she’d been
able to sleep better than he had.

“I think you’ll need this,” she said, handing him a fourth
pip.

Chakotay was doing his best to keep a straight face as the rest
of the Bridge crew looked on with a mixture of confusion, and
badly disguised non-interest. Tom and Harry exchanged glances,
but at least they had a clue what was going on. Tom had told
Harry about B’Elanna’s suggestion to move some people around,
but he had no idea the Captain and Chakotay had considered a
move as well. Harry was fairly bursting with the news–what a
topic of conversation this was going to be! If nothing else
just the *thought* of the command structure being moved around
would keep people entertained for days.

Janeway looked at Chakotay, “Do you want to make the
announcement, or shall I?”

“You’re still the Captain,” he said in a tone that implied,
`but not for long!’

“Very well, put me on ship-wide,” she ordered. “This is
Captain Janeway to all members of the crew.” She paused a
moment, gathering her thoughts about how she wanted to phrase
this.

“As you may have heard, there’s been some speculation about the
possibility of the crew participating in a short-term transfer
program. Commander Chakotay and I have discussed this and feel
it’s an excellent opportunity for those of you who wish to
learn more about other aspects of the ship’s day-to-day
operation. Those of you who are interested, please see your
supervisors for placement assignments. Also, Commander
Chakotay and I will also be taking part in this exercise. As
of 08:30 hours, we will be exchanging roles. He will take over
the duties of Captain and I will become the First Officer, but
I will be joining the science team as well.”

Down in the Science Lab Lt. Tyler and Ensign Myers exchanged
fearful glances. Janeway *here?* She had proven herself a
more than able scientist on many occasions. Not only would the
Captain, whom they seldom saw, be competition, but she’d have a
chance to see their work habits as well. No doubt there would
be some sweeping reforms made. Tyler and Myers didn’t exactly
follow Federation procedure. Not that they did anything wrong,
they just “cut out” some of what they termed, “unnecessary.”
Things like a dress code, allowing beverages at a work station,
personal items in the lab et cetera. No one ever came down
there, so it seemed silly to keep up with Starfleet
conventions, especially since Myers was formerly Maquis. The
strict adherence to the uniform dress code made them all
uncomfortable and only served to emphasize their differences.
Since working together, they had formed an excellent working
relationship, and no one wanted to see that change.

Back on the bridge, Janeway continued. “The re-assignments
will last one month for everyone. Since the Commander and I
will also be joining you,” she said with a smile, “we’ll be
exchanging titles as well. You will please refer to Chakotay
as `Captain’ and I will take the title of `Commander.’ At the
end of the month, we’ll resume our original ranks. Good luck
to all of you who choose a different path today. Janeway out.”

Chakotay stood and said, “thank you Capt. . .Commander.” In a
quieter voice, only audible to her he said,

“That part about switching titles wasn’t necessary.”

“I know, but I thought, if we’re going to do this, let’s go all
the way.” She saw the twinkle in his eye and said,

“That’s not what I mean, and you know it!”

“I could have you put in the Brig for insubordination,” he
teased.

“Oh so *that’s* why you wanted my chair so bad! I knew there
had to be *some* reason you were being so `considerate.’ If
you have no further need of my services, Captain, I’ll be
getting down to the Science Lab.”

Chakotay stepped aside and held his arms wide, motioning for
her to take her leave.

“Commander, if I may have a word.” Tuvok said, and both
Chakotay and Kathryn looked at him, each unsure of which of
them he meant.

“Commander Janeway,” Tuvok clarified, with more than a hint of
annoyance in his voice.

Kathryn sighed. She knew what was coming and didn’t want to
hear it, much less have everyone else listen it as well.
“Captain? May we use your Ready Room?”

“My Ready Room is your Ready Room,” Chakotay quipped. Janeway
stared hard at him. He was going to push this thing to the
limit, she could see that now.

Janeway motioned for Tuvok to walk ahead of her as she followed
him into her former office off the bridge. “Before you say
anything,” she said, holding up her hand to halt his
forthcoming rebuke, “I want you to know I didn’t make this
decision lightly. Chakotay’s been stuck listening to crew
complaints and doing mundane jobs for weeks now, I thought he
would benefit from a change as well.”

Tuvok stood rigidly at attention as the temporary Commander
explained her position.

“Well,” Janeway said, “Aren’t you going to tell me how
irresponsible I’m being, turning over command of this ship just
to add some interest to our lives?”

“Apparently my thoughts on the matter will not have to be
voiced, as you seem to know them all ready.”

“Tuvok, I know this is a little unorthodox, but it really is a
harmless exercise. You’re free to request a reassignment as
well, if you wish,” she added, knowing even the thought of
such an action was unthinkable to the Vulcan.

“It would be highly illogical of me to take you up on your
offer as Vulcans do not experience `boredom,’ as you call it.
Also, with many of the crew members attempting new positions,
there will probably be an even greater need for security.”

Kathryn tried to hide her smile from her over-zealous, if well-
meaning Security Officer. She highly doubted the crew’s first
reaction to the opportunity to learn new tasks would also
include breaching security. They’d been out here too long for
that. If someone were going to get into any “sensitive areas”
they would have done it by now.

“Tuvok,” she continued, “if anyone from your department
wishes a transfer, I hope you’ll be understanding and
supportive of their decision.”

He didn’t miss her veiled order. “As you wish Cap. .
.Commander,” he amended, finding it difficult to address her by
the new title.

“Good,” she said, her voice conveying finality. “Now if
you’ll excuse me, I believe I’m due in Science Lab One.”

As she exited onto the upper section of the bridge, she caught
herself starting to automatically order Chakotay to take over
command of the vessel. Grinning at how much of her behavior
was autonomic, she asked him,

“Permission to go to Science Lab One, Captain?”

“By all means, Commander. I expect a full report by the end of
Alpha Shift,” he said with a suppressed grin. He almost felt
like he was in the middle of an elaborate holodeck simulation,
playing out his fantasy of commanding *Voyager.* He felt a
little silly, as if he were engaged in some role-playing game,
but the people around him weren’t in on the play. He supposed
it would feel a little more natural as time went on, after all,
he had Captained his own vessel not that long ago, and had
taken over for Kathryn on numerous occasions. It would just be
so much easier if he didn’t feel that damn Vulcan’s eyes
burning a hole into his back!

*********

“You missed one,” Tyler said, handing Myers a framed photo as
he rushed passed her to collect his own personal items off his
work station. Crewman Zeider was in Sickbay, so he hurried to
clear his area as well, collecting memorabilia with one sweep
of his huge arm and depositing the lot into a biohazard bag.

“God, I hope we got everything,” Myers worried. “I’m in
middle of a touchy experiment and if I’m thrown into the Brig,
it could ruin months of work.”

“We should be Okay,” Tyler reassured her. “Even if you run
all the way here it takes at least ten min. . . .” The word’s
died on his lips as the door slid open before them, and they
practically collided with Janeway.

“Captain!” Alyssa Myers choked out, her eyes wide, trying to
hide the fact that her arms were full of non-regulation
articles.

“At ease, Ensign,” the Captain said, trying to keep a grin
from showing up on her face. The stiff posture Myers had
adopted reminded her of the day she met Harry Kim. Had it
really been four years already? She dropped that train of
thought and spoke to Tyler.

“I can’t remember the last time I was down here, you usually
come to me.”

Tyler swallowed and forced a smile, “You’re so busy Captain,
it just makes sense for me to come to you.”

“Well that should change,” Janeway said, “at least for a
month. I can’t imagine my bridge duties will take much with
things as dull as they are, so I should have plenty of time to
persue my scientific interests, which, I suppose, was the point
of my `transfer.'”

“So you’ll be here a lot?” Myers asked with trepidation.

“That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Jarek Tyler and Alyssa exchanged pleading glances, which,
fortunately the Captain missed as she perused the Science Lab.
Jarek motioned to Alyssa to hand over her arm load to him, and
nodded towards the door, indicating that he would dispose of
their contraband. Without asking permission to leave, Tyler
slipped out the door, then quickly returned, with empty arms.
The Captain had been busy checking things out at an empty work
station and hadn’t even noticed his absence.

“Where?” Myers mouthed at him

“Behind the access panel near the Jefferies Tube,” he
whispered.

“Did you say something?” Kathryn asked, turning to look at her
new colleagues.

“Uh, no, just that we’re glad you’ll be joining us for awhile,”
Myers tried to smile.

“Thank you Ensign, I think it will be an interesting month.”
Janeway glanced around the room again and added,

“You know what this lab needs?” Both scientists shook their
heads.

“A few personal touches.”

*********

Chakotay settled into the Big Chair. It felt good. He had
been there numerous times, but it was nice to know he wouldn’t
have to give it back at the end of his shift. It wasn’t long
before the dreaded reports started coming in, although at least
today’s had a new twist with the personnel transfers.

Tuvok came around the railing to stand before Chakotay.
“Captain, may I have a word with you?”

If Tuvok hadn’t been a Vulcan, Chakotay would have sworn the
Security Officer had used a derogatory tone as he addressed
him. He wasn’t sure he still hadn’t. Chakotay motioned him to
the Ready Room.

“Captain,” Tuvok began, standing before Chakotay stiff as a
board, “as you are aware, I have objected to this unorthodox
chain of events.”

“So you’ve said,” Chakotay said rubbing the bridge of his nose
as a headache started to form. Now he knew why Kathryn always
seemed to be massaging her nose as well.

“And I feel it’s my duty to inform you that I have noted this
in my logs,” he continued.

“I would have expected nothing less,” Chakotay, answered,
half-leaning, half-sitting on the desk, pushing the computer
terminal aside. It was apparent Tuvok was waiting for a more
logical explanation as to why both he and the Captain felt this
was acceptable behavior, but Chakotay wasn’t about to give him
the satisfaction. They hadn’t *technically* done anything
wrong, so he didn’t worry about the information showing up in
the logs. In fact, he was counting on it. If this worked,
maybe Starfleet would consider using it as a standard method of
dealing with the doldrums of space.

“Was there something else Lieutenant?”

Tuvok handed him a PADD with his report and said, ” Not at
this time, Sir.”

It took nearly all of Chakotay’s will power not to smile at the
struggle Tuvok was obviously having over this. He watched the
stiff-shouldered man exit the room then took his place at
Kathryn’s desk. Sitting there he felt closer to her than when
he sat in her Command chair. Maybe it was because he had been
there before, but this was the first time he had taken a seat
at her personal work space for longer than to access the
computer terminal. Sitting there felt intensely intimate, as
if he’d finally been invited to share a corner of her private
world. She was the Captain here, and yet when the doors were
closed, she was Kathryn as well. He found himself running the
palms of his hands over the surface of the desk, almost as if
it were Kathryn herself beneath his warm hands. Realizing his
action, he quickly jerked his arms back, almost embarrassed
where his mind had taken him, even though he was alone in the
room. Maybe this wouldn’t be the “shore leave” he had
envisioned. Everywhere he looked were reminders of her. An
unfinished log entry on the computer, notes and ideas on a PADD
carelessly left on the corner of the desk. The couch where he
could envision her sitting slightly on her right side, her left
leg comfortably slung over her right, with her hand paused
before her mouth, staring out at the passing stars. The room
even smelled of her delicate perfume. Not an overwhelming
scent, just the soft fragrance that was uniquely hers.

Chakotay shook his head and sighed. He better find some work-
related distraction to get him back on track, or he would exit
the room with nothing more than an entire shift of daydreams
under his belt.

Down in Science Lab One, Janeway was busily setting up her work
station as Lt. Tyler and Ensign Myers looked on, occasionally
exchanging questioning glances. Feeling their eyes on her,
Kathryn turned to observe their tense posture. Smiling, she
raised her hand and advised them to be “at ease.”

“Just continue as if I weren’t even here,” she told them,
knowing it was going to take some time for the two of them to
get used to her presence.

Jarek, trying to relax and accept her as college, stepped
forward and inquired about the project she was about to embark
on. An excited gleam entered Janeway’s eyes as she outlined
her research.

“As a Cadet I had done a thesis on massive compact halo
objects, under the guidance of Tom’s father, Admiral Paris.
Our mutual interest in the phenomenon brought us quite close.
In fact it was he who suggested Command School,” Kathryn said,
her eyes glazing over momentarily remembering the man who had
been her mentor. Jarek and Alyssa exchanged glances again, not
quite how to react to the impromptu personal confession of
their Captain. Surprisingly, it had a calming effect on
Alyssa, and she felt confident enough to point out the obvious
to her commanding officer.

“But we haven’t encountered any halo objects, compact or
otherwise.”

“I know, but remember that cluster of pulsars we passed the
other day? It was the only thing that had happened all week.”

“Yes, but there was nothing special about them, just standard
pulsars, although it was a little unusual that they all had the
same interval between pulses, however, that can be explained by
their proximity to each other.”

“Okay, but did you notice the energy signature? It’s
resonating at the same frequency as a compact halo object,”
Janeway proudly announced.

Tyler and Myers both approached her work station where she had
the preliminary data entered.

“You’re right!” Jarek cried. “I don’t know how I missed
this!”

“Or me either,” Alyssa added.

Janeway smiled. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not like it was
staring you in the face. I never would have found it myself if
I hadn’t taken the time to dig deeper, and I normally wouldn’t
have had the time to do that, but with the way things have been
around here lately, I looked, just for something to do. I was
really excited by this. It’s one of the reasons I agreed to
the switch in positions with Commander Chakotay, so I would
have the time to see if a cluster of pulsars like this might be
the beginnings of compact halo objects.”

“Still, you would have thought one of us would have noticed,”
Alyssa persisted. “Zeider was here then too, and he must have
missed it as well.”

“You’ve all got your own projects to work on. I hardly expect
you remember the readings you took on an average pulsar cluster
to correlate to something as obscure as halo objects.”

Alyssa Myers was a bit taken aback. She had always had the
impression that Janeway was the ultimate perfectionist. The
embodiment of Starfleet. The Maquis used to call her “By The
Book Janeway,” when they had first come on board, and Alyssa
had no personal experience to base her own opinion on. The
only contact she’d ever had with the woman was hearing her
voice over the comm system or at briefings with the entire
crew, where Janeway would invariably be all Starfleet. She was
delighted to discover she wasn’t as intractable as she had once
thought. Feeling herself relax a little, she said,

“If you’ll excuse me, Commander?” She tried the title on
tentatively, “I should be getting back to work.” Janeway
dismissed her with a nod, anxious to get started herself.

********

Chakotay had made arrangements with the “Commander” to have
dinner with her at 1800 hours, but checking his chronometer, he
found that she was already fifteen minutes late. Promptness
was a Janeway trademark, and he began to wonder if something
had happened to her.

“Computer, locate Cap. . .Commander Janeway.”

“Commander Janeway is in Science Lab One,” the computer’s
lilting voice calmly answered. Chakotay smiled. Her first day
there and she already was so involved in her research she had
lost track of the time. He remembered the tenacity she had
exhibited on New Earth when she was on the trail of what she
thought was a lead. If he hadn’t literally forced her to stop
and eat, he had no doubt she would have sat before that damned
computer terminal until she passed out.

“Captain Chakotay to Commander Janeway,” he announced, tapping
his comm badge. Gods he liked the sound of hearing the title
of “Captain” again!

“Janeway here,” she answered, sounding slightly irritated at
having been disturbed.

“Commander, don’t you have an appointment in the Mess Hall that
you’re late for?”

“Oh God, what time is it?” She asked, accessing the time on
her terminal. She *knew* she should have set an alarm.

“Chakotay, I’m so sorry! I was in the middle of a magnetron
scan and I guess I lost track of the time and. . . .”

“There’s no excuse Janeway!” he teased, the smile even coming
into his voice. “And by the way, it’s `Captain Chakotay’ to
you!”

“Yessir!” She snapped back so crisply, he could practically
see her standing at attention.

“I won’t put you on report *this* time Commander, if you get up
here within the next five minutes.”

“On my way, Janeway out.” Chakotay laughed, envisioning her
running through the corridors as if her life depended on it.
Not four minutes later, Kathryn burst through the doors of the
mess hall, and slowed herself to a walk, trying to shake off
the curious stares of her crew.

“How was that?” She panted. Chakotay checked his chronometer
and nodded with approval.

“Not bad. Four minutes and thirty seconds. And I thought I
was going to have to bust you down to Ensign.”

“Not in this lifetime!” She said, her breathing returning to
normal. She smiled at the suppressed grin on his face. Just
seeing him struggle, trying to keep those endearing dimples
from his face, was enough to make her smile as well. He always
made her feel so good. He even made her forget that she had
just embarrassed herself by running through her ship as if she
were being chased by all the demons of hell. But it had felt
good, she realized. And she felt good too. Maybe for the
first time in weeks.

“A little jogging seems to be good for you,” Chakotay
observed. “I haven’t seen you look this relaxed in ages.”

“I feel relaxed,” she said, reclining slightly on the chair
across from him. “If I would have thought a day playing in a
science lab would do this for me I would have handed over the
ship to you weeks–months ago!”

“You would not,” he said. “I would still have had to drag you
kicking and screaming away from that chair on the Bridge.”

“You’re right. I guess you know me a little too well,” she
said, placing her hand over his and giving him a look that was
almost his undoing. If reading a few extra reports and
deciding on some course changes had wrought this kind of a
change in her, to allow her to unself-consciously touch him
like that in public, he hoped they never left these doldrums!

Suddenly realizing she still had her hand over his, she pulled
back, but not as if she had been burned, as sometimes had been
the case when she discovered her touch had lingered on his
longer than what would be considered proper.

“Neelix have anything left that could be classed as edible?”
She asked, straitening up in her chair.

“He’s saved us a couple of plates,” he answered, still a
little surprised in the change in her. Now he wished he’d
suggested dinning in one of their quarters, even the near empty
Mess Hall was beginning to feel crowded. At least he could
thank the Gods that Paris and his gossip mill were absent this
evening. Even so, word of Kathryn’s race through the lower
decks had probably already spread throughout the entire ship.

Kathryn was about to get up and see what Neelix had saved, when
the Talaxian tottered over with their dinner.

“There you are `Commander.'” Neelix said, giving her a small
elbowing in the ribs as if the subject of her title switch was
their private joke. He smiled broadly and placed the steaming
plates before the officers. At first Janeway was unsure if it
were steaming from the heat coming off the food, or the odor it
was producing.

“What is it?” Chakotay asked, waving a hand before his face to
dispel some of the steam that threatened to overtake his
olfactory senses.

“Wahlvek souffl‚,” Neelix replied, puffing up with pride, more
than his souffl‚ had. “Of course it wouldn’t be quite so. .
.pungent if it had been served when it had been ready,” he
added by way of chastising Janeway.

“I’m really sorry,” she apologized again. “For more reasons
than one,” she said, slightly under her breath so as not to
hurt Neelix’s feelings any further than she already had. But
Chakotay heard her comment and struggled to keep from laughing.
Having to explain what was so humorous to the little cook,
would prove to be too large of a diplomatic challenge.

“Well, I’ll leave you two to your dinners. Excuse me,” he
said, with a little backward shuffle.

“Smooth Chakotay,”

“What? Did I say anything?”

“No, but I almost lost it, watching you try not to lose it!”
She chided. Picking up her fork she stuck it into her souffl‚,
which immediately deflated, releasing even more unpleasant
odor. “And I was really hungry, too.”

“Maybe it’s not as bad as it looks.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Just try it,” he urged.

“You first.”

Chakotay, not one to back away from a challenge, especially
from her, lifted his fork and took a large mouthful. “Hey!
This isn’t bad!” He exclaimed. “Try it!”

Kathryn tried a tentative bite, but soon found herself
spitting it out in a most undignified manner. Chakotay was
laughing so hard he almost forgot and took another bite
himself. Janeway lunged for her water to rinse the foul taste
that remained in her mouth. Gasping, she turned on him.

“I only want to know one thing,” she said, having to take
another drink from her glass.

“What’s that?”

“How on Earth did you manage to swallow that. . .*stuff* with a
straight face?”

“Years of practice. How do you think I managed to live
through torture at the hands of the Cardassians? This was what
they’d serve on Sunday’s for a special treat.” He had meant it
as a joke, but he could tell he had touched a nerve. Suddenly
he remembered. She too had been in a Cardassian prison. And
for quite some time. It really was amazing she had survived,
even knowing her determination as he did now, he was still
impressed.

“Kathryn, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any. . . . ”

“It’s okay, Chakotay. Really. It was a long time ago.
Another life,” She tried to reassure him, but her eyes still
had a haunted look. The casual, carefree mood had suddenly
evaporated like the steam from their Wahlvek Souffl‚.

“Let’s get out of here,” he suggested, taking her by the hand
and almost dragging her to her feet.

“Where are we going?”

“Let’s go down to the Science Lab. I want you to show me your
experiment.”

“Do you really want to see my experiment, or are you just being
polite?” She asked, suspicious of his attitude change.

“I’m just being polite,” he said with a smile. “But I’m sure
there’ll be *something* in the lab that will interest me.”

She gave him her sternest don’t-get-cute-with-me look as he
propelled her towards the door. “What about Neelix’s dinner?
He’ll know for sure we didn’t eat it.”

Chakotay quickly walked back to the table and gathered their
plates. “Just taking it with us!” He called to the Talaxian
who was watching him with a curious stare.

Once again he and Janeway were headed out the door. She
started to head towards the turbo-lift, but Chakotay was going
in the opposite direction.

“Where are you going? The turbo-lift is. . . .”

“I know, but I have to drop this off in the Hydroponics Bay
first.”

“The Hydro Bay? Why?”

” Didn’t *you* think this stuff tasted like fertilizer?”

She laughed as she followed him down the deserted hallway. She
felt like a school girl sneaking around pulling practical
jokes, following Chakotay around with a plate of florescent
orange souffl‚. Oh she was tempted take her plate and smash it
into his face and take off at a dead run, but she figured her
crew had seen enough of her juvenile behavior for one day. If
that was the case, what was she doing skulking around the
Hydroponics Bay, clinging to the shadows as Chakotay
reconnoitered their dump site? Silently he pointed to a bed of
azaleas and whispered,

“NOW!” They dumped simultaneously, taking the empty plates
with them. Walking as non-chalantly as they could, they
deposited the plates in a recycler just outside the Mess Hall,
and quickly headed for the turbo-lift before anyone was any
wiser.

Once the doors closed on them they both broke down in fits of
laughter.

“Can you see the look on Tivoli’s face when he sees that stuff?
He’s going to have a fit that someone messed with his prize
azaleas!” He choked, he was laughing so hard.

“So *that’s* why the careful reconnaissance,” she said, the
realization dawning on her. “Chakotay, I’ve never seen this
side of you! I’ve always known you had a `different’ sense of
humor, but I didn’t know you went in for practical jokes as
well. I may have to put you on report!”

“Well then you better put yourself down as well because you
made an excellent accomplice!”

“Hmmm. I guess you’re right. Maybe we’ll forget it, just this
once,” she said, almost laughing again at his expression.
“You better have an iron-clad alibi if something like this ever
happens again, because you know who’ll be the first person I’ll
suspect.”

“I guess I’ll never be able to leave your side will I?” His
voice had suddenly turned serious.

Kathryn swallowed as she saw the intense look in his eyes. “I
think that’s a bit extreme, don’t you?” Fortunately the
tension was broken by the lift doors opening onto deck__. She
quickly exited the confines of the turbo-lift and crossed
swiftly to the Science Lab.

Although the ship was manned by three different shifts, the
work in the science labs was done mostly on the Alpha Shift,
due to the shortage of scientists. Most of the people on
*Voyager* were needed in more key positions, So as she had
expected, the Science Lab was deserted. Kathryn called for the
lights to come up as she strode to her work station. She’d
only been here a day, but if Chakotay had to pick her area out
of the four, he would have chosen the one she had walked to.
There was something about the organized disarray that spoke
“Janeway” to him. It reminded him of her desk in her ready
room.

Kathryn activated her computer terminal and began to outline
what she hoped to prove with her study. As she launched into
her theories, Chakotay found he couldn’t concentrate on the
words she spoke. Instead, he saw her animated features, the
excited gleam in her eyes, the passion she felt for her
research. He always got a lump in his throat watching her in
command situations, but he found her enthusiasm here equally as
enticing.

She continued to talk about the pulsars as he walked over to
her and gave her a big hug. It wasn’t an intimate hug as she
sometimes found herself the recipient of, just a big old,
comfortable bear hug.

“What was that for?” She asked, as she nervously stepped back
from his embrace.

“Nothing,” he said, suddenly a little shy. “You’re so excited
by all this, you’re like a kid at Christmas, and I just wanted
to share some of that joy.”

“I’m the one who should be thanking you. For making me see
that I needed this, to regain some balance in my life.”

“Glad I could help,” he said sincerely.

“I can’t remember the last time I let my hair down like this,”
she said, rubbing her forehead with a slightly embarrassed
smile.

“Probably right before you cut it,” he added sarcastically.

“Are we back to that *again?*”

“No. I promise to be good. Walk you home? I hear there’s
some lunatic roaming the halls with plates of Wahlvek souffl‚.”

“Really?” She said with feigned shock. “I heard there’s two
maniacs on the loose.”

He grabbed a phaser-shaped tool off her table and held it
before him like a weapon. Pushing her slightly behind him, he
slowly slinked out of the science lab and into the hallway as
if he were on point for an invasion force. He continued his
role-playing right up to her door, offering to enter and make
sure her quarters were safe.

“No, thanks for the offer though,” she said, wiping the tears
from her eyes that had gathered there with her side-splitting
laughter. “Maybe I should see if *your* quarters are safe.”
She could see he had a witty sexual innuendo on the tip of his
tongue, but he managed to restrain himself.2

“Seriously Chakotay, thank you for tonight. I can’t remember
when I’ve laughed so much. Certainly not since we hit this
dead section of space. Maybe that’s why I’ve felt so silly and
giddy all evening. I think the old timers called it `cabin
fever,’ or more recently `space fever.’ Maybe if we sanctioned
practical jokes, the crew wouldn’t be at each other’s
throats.”

“Stranger things have been known to happen,” he said
cryptically. “Good night Kathryn.”

“Good night,” she replied, watching him until he entered his
quarters, hoping against hope that his night of practical jokes
was at an end.

*PROPER ORDER PART 2*
All disclaimers from part one apply.

Chakotay sat at the head of the table in the conference room,
going over the last minute details of the topics he wished to
discuss with the senior staff. He toyed with the PADD, hoping
Kathryn would make it to the room before the rest of the
officers. Part of the reason he had suggested their role-
reversal was to free her up so they could spend some more time
together. As it was, he saw less of her now than he had
before. It had only taken her a week to ask him if he could
handle the duties of the First Officer again, in addition to
his assumed role as Captain. She wasn’t trying to over work
him, she explained, it was that she found that any other
outside duties took away from her time in the Science Lab.
Chakotay never figured he’d end up being jealous of a group of
pulsars! Of course he had offered to help her out and resumed
his old job as well as his current one. It wasn’t like he
couldn’t handle the extra work load. At the rate things were
going, he could probably handle the entire Bridge himself. So
now the only time he saw Kathryn was at the morning briefings
and at an occasional meal, consumed as quickly as she could so
she could get back to that damned science project of hers.
Even Tyler and Myers were overheard talking to their fellow
crew members about Janeway’s obsessive behavior.

As if his wishful thinking was working for once, Kathryn
entered the conference room with a mug of coffee in one hand
and a PADD in the other. Almost tripping because her eyes were
glued to the data before her, she chose a seat near the middle
of the table, ignoring the fact there was another person in the
room. Chakotay sat back and crossed his arms, waiting for her
to acknowledge him. It took several minutes, but finally she
looked up.

“This is the most fascinating occurrence!” She exclaimed,
almost glowing. “The pulsar’s flashes are synchronous, then
one will start to emit a different pulse, and the others adjust
their bursts to match the new cadence. It’s almost like
they’re playing follow the leader!” She looked up to see
Chakotay’s almost pouting face.

“What? What’s the matter?”

“Good morning to you too!”

“Oh for heavens sake Chakotay! Are you acting like a petulant
child because I didn’t breeze in here full of smiles and
kisses?”

“Some simple acknowledgment would have been nice.”

“I’m sorry Captain. Good morning Sir.” She practically bit
back at him.

Chakotay sighed. “That’s not what I meant and you know it.
It’s just that we never talk anymore. The only time I see you
is at these briefings and a meal if they kick you out of the
lab, and then you always have a PADD in your hand. Do you take
that thing to bed with you as well?”

“And do you get this upset with B’Elanna when she doesn’t come
in here and give you a big hug?” She knew the answer was “no,”
and she also knew the reason he was upset. She supposed she
had been a little preoccupied with her research lately, but she
thought he of all people would understand her desire, her
*need* to finish this project before her month was up.

“Now who’s sounding like a spoiled child?” He crossed over to
her and leaned one hip on the table, causing her to look up at
him. “This was supposed to be fun,” he said, his anger
evaporating. “For all of us. A break from routine, not an
excuse for you to work harder than you normally do.”

Janeway leaned back in her chair. “I guess I have been going
at it a little aggressively,” she agreed. Chakotay raised an
eyebrow at her. “Okay, maybe a bit obsessive, but I never
realized how much I miss the science part of my training.”

“You don’t have to go at this like it’s the last experiment
that you’ll ever do. If it’s that important to you, we’ll find
a way for you to be more involved in the Science Department.
You don’t always have to do everything by yourself.”

He was right. Where had she gotten the idea that she had to
follow up on every shred of information herself? She certainly
had no trouble delegating responsibility when it came to
running the ship. Why did she have such a hard time
relinquishing a little control with her research? She
remembered how he had initially offered to help her discover an
antigen on New Earth, but she practically ordered him away from
“her baby.” Maybe it had something to do with her creative
side. She wasn’t allowed to express much of that side of
herself on the Bridge. Having someone else finish her
experiments was like having someone finish a painting she was
working on. They might see the direction it was originally
moving in, but with a new person came new perspectives. And
while she realized this was usually a positive thing, it wasn’t
desirable with something as personal as her work was to her.

Chakotay watched her face as she turned the thoughts over
quickly in her mind. He could almost see the gears working, as
they used to say.

“You’re right,” she finally conceded. “So now what doctor?”

A smile began to play at the corners of his mouth. “Have
dinner with me tonight.”

“That’s your answer to everything, isn’t it? Ply me with good
food and good company,” she smiled, handing him her hand so he
could help her straighten up in her chair. “What time and
where?” she sighed.

“20:00 hours, my quarters?”

“How about 19:30 in my quarters?”

“Okay, you win,” he gave in, knowing she would probably feel
more relaxed on her “own turf.” He gave her a warm, friendly
smile and patted her arm as he headed back to his seat. “Nice
to have you back,” he added.

*********

It was 19:00 hours and Kathryn stood examining herself in the
mirror for what seemed the hundredth time. What was she so
nervous about? It’s not like it was the first time she and
Chakotay had shared a meal in her quarters. She had plenty of
replicator rations, so she would be able to accommodate any
request he had. . . . Maybe that was the problem. She was
worried that his “request” may be something of a more personal
nature. He had kept up his subtle pursuit of her, and she had
to admit, he was beginning to wear her down. She too had
missed the close association they normally shared when both of
them occupied the Bridge, but she also found that she was able
to relax and lose herself in her research in the science lab,
and not always have the nagging feeling in the back of her mind
that he was watching her every move. She supposed it was
flattering. If one day he stopped being so attentive, she
would probably be hurt, then angry. She claimed to not want
his attentions and his affection, but she knew she would be
lost without it. How could she be such a bundle of
contradictions? She thought back to her relationship with
Mark. The poor man. She had no idea how he put up with her
mixed signals for as long as he did, and still be back for
more. He claimed not to be a “dog person,” when she had asked
him to watch her Irish Setter, Molly, but that’s what he
reminded her of: A faithful companion who always returned for
more, no matter how she treated him.

She had changed out of her uniform into a simple aqua dress,
which she hadn’t accessorized. This was two friends having
dinner, not a date she had to dress up for and try to impress
him. Still, she knew the dress was one of his favorites, and
realized it was probably why she had chosen it.

She puttered around her quarters, straightening a picture here
and adjusting a knick-knack there. Why was she so fidgety? It
was her suggestion to dine in her quarters for this exact
reason–so she wouldn’t be so nervous. The earlier time was so
she would get to sleep at a decent hour. It never failed, when
ever they got together for dinner, they would end up discussing
anything and everything until she suddenly would realize it was
one or two in the ship’s morning. Somehow he always managed to
engage her interests and they would end up on some tangent
neither could remember starting.

The door chimed as she found herself before the mirror yet
again.

“Come!” she called out, moving to the center of the room to
greet her guest.

Chakotay stepped into the room. He noted that the lights were
at a level that was more casual than for duty, but not low
enough to be intimate. Even her lights were non-committal!

“Hi,” she said, feeling a little nervous. Sometimes she felt
she should embrace him, and others she thought he would mis-
read her greeting. In the end she ended up standing almost at
attention, clenching and unclenching her hands.

“At ease, Commander Janeway,” he teased. “You look great,” he
added, glad she had picked out the dress that was his favorite.
It was a simple style that was similar to what used to be
called a “jumper,” but it was more form fitting. The skirt
flared a little around her small waist and ended just above her
knees. He was glad she hadn’t chosen any adornment, his gift
would be all she would need to set the dress off.

“You look good too,” she told him, starting to relax a little
now that the first few seconds had passed. He had gone casual
as well and she was sincere when she told him he looked good.
The loose-fitting pants and shirt in earth-tones suited him.
In fact the outfit was so “Chakotay,” she couldn’t imagine him
in any other style, save his uniform, and he looked *damn* good
in that. Kathryn felt herself beginning to blush. Where had
*that* thought come from?

“Would you like something to drink?” She offered, heading for
the replicator. “I think I’ll have some ice tea, it seems a
bit warm in here, don’t you think?”

“No, seems fine to me,” he answered, enjoying her discomfort,
realizing he was the cause of it. “Ice tea would be great.”

She motioned him to the sofa and joined him with two frosty
glasses.

“I haven’t had ice tea in ages,” he said, accepting the glass.

“Neither have I. Today felt like it should have been a summer
day, so I was thirsty for it. I think it would be summer on
New Earth,” she added a little wistfully.

“Funny you should mention that,” he said, withdrawing a small
box from his pants pocket.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a combination thank you, congratulations and `just
because’ gift.”

“Thank you, congratulations and just because?”

“Thank you for dinner,” he explained, but she interrupted him
before he could finish.

“We haven’t had dinner yet. Shouldn’t you wait and see if it’s
edible first?”

“And congratulations on your recent discoveries,” he
continued, ignoring her rude interjection. “And just because,
well, just because.”

Kathryn took the proffered box and asked, “Shall I open it
now?”

Chakotay nodded. She undid the ribbon and lifted the lid.
Pushing aside delicate paper she saw what appeared to be a
necklace, with an oval pendant. The silver metal was engraved
with a floral pattern which he told her was a wild Irish rose.

“Chakotay, it’s lovely! It reminds me of the locket my great-
great-grandmother used to wear!”

“Open it,” he advised.

“It *is* a locket!” She exclaimed, hurrying to release the
catch. Inside was a picture of the shelter they had shared on
New Earth.

“Now you’ll always be home,” he said, his voice thick with
emotion.

“It’s perfect! Thank you!” She cried, and without thinking,
threw her arms around Chakotay’s neck and kissed him on the
cheek. He slid his arms around her and hugged her back. As
she pulled away from his embrace he noticed tears in her eyes.

“Hey, it was supposed to make you happy, not sad,” he said,
wiping a stray tear from her cheek.

“I am! I can’t believe how thoughtful you can be!” she said,
her face breaking into a grin.

“Just call me Mr. Sensitive,” he said, returning her smile.

“I’m speechless! How can mere words express how wonderful a
present this is? And how did you know I was feeling
`homesick?'”

“I knew I was, so I figured you must be as well,” he
confessed.

“Do you think about it a lot?”

“Only about twenty times a day, and then I’ll have a stretch
where it will seem like it never happened. Of course I’m happy
to be back on *Voyager*, but I can’t help thinking about what
might have been. . . .”

“Me too. I’m glad I don’t have to make a choice. I honestly
don’t know if I could choose between them.”

Chakotay wasn’t quite sure how to take her disclosure. Did
this mean she wished for a less formal atmosphere, as he did,
so that they might have a chance to explore a relationship?
Before he could persue his line of thought, she was off the
couch and standing before her mirror trying on the necklace.
It was just the right length, and the perfect accompaniment to
her dress. He joined her in front of the looking glass and
placed his hands on her shoulders.

“It’s definitely you,” he said, admiring the way it caught the
light.

Kathryn turned around to face him , trying once again to
express her gratitude. “I think it’s the nicest gift anyone’s
ever given me,” her voice started to crack. “Thank you.”

He wasn’t sure how it happened. He’d been that close to her
before, and in equally emotional situations, but he’d never
stepped over the boundaries. Never invaded her personal space.
But there he was, with his lips caressing hers. His hands slid
up her neck and held her head to his as he felt her begin to
return his kiss. As if she too had suddenly realized what had
happened, she pulled away, flustered.

“I’m sorry Kathryn,” he said. And he meant it. He had no
intention of kissing her, all of a sudden he just *was.* “I
don’t want you to think that I gave you the locket with some
kind of ulterior motive in mind.”

Her face softened in empathy. “I know that, Chakotay. And I’m
sorry too. I wish I could give you a logical reason for my
behavior, but I can’t.” There was something about the tone of
her voice that made Chakotay think she was going to tell him
more, but it was gone just as quickly. Kathryn abruptly walked
away from him, perhaps fearing her close proximity would entice
him to finish what he had started.

Rubbing his chin, Chakotay knew he had spoiled any chance of
them having a relaxing evening. “Kathryn, I’ve put you in an
uncomfortable position, and I’m sorry. You don’t know how
sorry. Maybe after we’ve both had some time to think about
this we can try for dinner again.”

“I think it would be for the best,” she agreed, her voice
barely audible.

“Good night,” he said without meeting her eyes.

“Good night.”

She leaned against the door as it closed with a whoosh of air.
How had things gotten so out of control? All they were going
to do was have a nice dinner between two friends who’d lost
touch for a short time, and the next thing she knew they were
back in this uncertain place. She wanted to lay the blame on
Chakotay for having given her such a personal gift, for
basically no reason, but she couldn’t. It had only been a
thoughtful gesture, only had been *meant* as a thoughtful
gesture, but she had gone and ruined it for both of them. She
felt horrible for the way she lead him on by returning his
kiss, then abruptly pushing him away. All the reasons she had
stated for not wanting to get involved with him were true, and
she knew she was hiding behind her command, but it was in an
effort to avoid the real reason she was so scared. Her fears
had a very real basis in the past, and she usually was able to
push them to the back of her thoughts, where, she believed,
they belonged. But Chakotay had struck a nerve. Not only with
his attempted joke about the Cardassians, but with his
attentions as well. She and Mark had had an understanding. As
much as she dreaded to bring up the past, to go back there and
re-live the horror, she knew she owed Chakotay the truth. He
deserved nothing less.

She picked the locket up off her chest. Already it felt as if
it had always been there. She opened the clasp and looked at
the picture he had inserted. “Now you’ll always be home,” he
had said. In that case, he should have put his picture inside,
but she knew he would never be that presumptuous. Holding the
silver disk in her fist, she knew what she had to do and
gathered up her courage to go to his door.

*********

Kathryn stood before Chakotay’s door hoping he had returned
there and praying that he hadn’t.

Hearing the chime, he immediately called out, “Come!”
instinctively feeling it was her.

It took Chakotay to come to the door and open it, for her to
enter his quarters. She’d been there plenty of times, for both
for work and social occasions, but tonight his rooms looked
different. She recognized that it was her own trepidation that
made them appear altered. Both of them stood in the doorway,
neither speaking, each waiting for the other to be the first to
break the tension between them. Summoning her courage, Kathryn
finally spoke.

“I’d like to talk to you about what just happened,” she stated
simply.

“There’s nothing to talk about. I over-stepped my `parameters’
again,” he said, trying not to sound spiteful, but it came out
that way anyhow.

Kathryn couldn’t believe she was actually grinning at a time
like this, but his throwing her words back at her somehow
seemed ironic. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” she said,
surprising him that she wasn’t here to berate him for his lack
of control.

“I know I told you my reasons for not wanting to get involved
with you,” she continued, but it’s not the only thing that’s
holding me back.”

He had always felt as if her excuses were valid, but not enough
to stop her if she really wanted a relationship with him. He
could see she was apprehensive about giving into him. On one
level, it would mean that she was giving up. That she had
accepted the fact that it could well be sixty some years before
*Voyager* saw the Alpha Quadrant. And in accepting that
inevitability and entering a relationship with him, the crew
might see it as her giving up on finding a quicker route home.
But why couldn’t she see the other side as well? That she
hadn’t given up, but was simply making the most of the present.
It was like he told her on New Earth–he couldn’t sacrifice the
present for a future that might never happen.

“So what else are you worried about?” he prompted, motioning
her to the sofa.

She sat down on the couch, pulling herself into a ball and
hugging her arms. If he needed anymore evidence that she was
closing herself off, he saw it by the pained expression on her
face.

“Is it cold in here?” she asked, hugging her arms tighter.

“It’s the same temperature as the rest of the ship,” he said,
wondering why she kept stalling. “Would you like a blanket?”

“Yes. That would help,” she said, thinking that maybe by
actually physically wrapping something around her, it would
protect her and make it easier to tell him what she had to say.

He draped the blanket around her shoulders without touching
her, and was about to increase the lighting when she asked him
not to.

“Please, it would be easier if it wasn’t so bright.” So he
requested they be dimmed even further. He waited for her to
speak but she remained silent, unsure where to begin.

“Kathryn, what *is* it?”

“This may be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done,”
she confessed quietly. “I never even told Mark the whole
story, but you deserve to hear the truth, so you know it’s me,
and not anything you’ve done.” She pulled the blanket tighter
around her compacted body and let her mind go to the area she
kept tightly guarded.

“No doubt at some point you’ve accessed my Starfleet records.”

“It was one of the first things I did when I came on the ship.
I wanted to know who it was I was dealing with. I have to say
it took a bit of the sting out of being captured when I found
out Starfleet had sent their best after me.”

Kathryn smiled slightly at his compliment, but didn’t let it
side track her from her purpose. “In those records you
probably noticed that I had been held prisoner by the
Cardassians for six months.”

He nodded. Although they hadn’t discussed it, he knew she was
aware they both had done time at the hands of the Cardassians.
It only served to increase his respect for her and her duty to
Starfleet. It took someone with an overwhelming sense of
loyalty to be able to look beyond the past and work with a
former and sometimes current enemy. If she hadn’t been so
devoted to Starfleet, she would have been a perfect candidate
for the Maquis. What a team they would have made! It might
have even been a turning point for the Maquis in their struggle
against the Cardassians.

“I was captured along with Admiral Paris when our shuttle
encountered one of their ships,” she said, refocusing his
attention on her narrative. “We were checking a sensor array
on a Urtean moon. What I didn’t know was the array was being
used to spy on Cardassian movements in the area. At the time I
still believed it was only taking the usual scientific
readings. When the Cardassians first started their
interrogation, I honestly didn’t believe we were on a mission
other than one of scientific discovery. I had heard rumors
that the *Icarus’* mission was two-fold, but I had no concrete
evidence to support what I’d heard. I truly believed what I
said when I swore to my captors that they were mistaken about
our intentions. When they threw the evidence in my face, I
couldn’t believe that Admiral Paris had lied to me. I realize
now he had done it for my own protection, but at the time I
only saw it as his lack of trust in me. Of course my feelings
of betrayal played me right into the hands of the Cardassians.
You know only too well what masters they are at manipulation,”
she said, seeing he had picked up on her referral to Seska.

“Even though they knew I had no information they could use,
they continued to beat me. I knew Admiral Paris and I weren’t
the only prisoners, for I’d hear them screaming, every hour of
the day and night. I tried to block out the sound by singing
as loudly as I could, but I could still hear the sounds of men
and women pleading for mercy. Then one day I was dragged into
a room different from the one I was usually taken to for my
`workout.’ I was barely conscious anymore and almost hoped
that this would be the time that they’d kill me and end it all.
But they were good. They knew just how much a person could
stand and would stop before their prisoners were allowed to
escape through death.”

At that point Kathryn didn’t remember telling Chakotay anymore.
Instead, the scene played itself out in her memory as if she
were watching a holo-simulation of the event. She could
physically feel herself speaking, but she couldn’t recall
forming the words as she stepped back into her own past. . . .

“Ensign Kathryn Janeway,” the Gul before her spoke. She
hadn’t seen this one before. Which Order did *this* reptile
belong to, she found herself wondering. Obsidian? Cerulean?
Ochre? Magenta? She found her mind drifting off in silly
directions more and more these days. Was this madness? Or the
beginnings of it?

“My name is Gul Edan. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?”

“Sorry,” she managed through her broken jaw. “I haven’t had
time to look you up in the Social Register.”

He smiled at her attempt at humor. “At least my men haven’t
*completlely* broken you.”

“That’s on the agenda for tomorrow.”

“I don’t think so,” he continued smoothly. “I think you and I
can be mutually beneficial to each other. To start with, I’d
like the doctor to have a look at you.”

At first she wanted to say “no,” that she didn’t want to be
fixed so that she could be broken again, but the thought of
even momentary relief from her pain was too seductive.

Gul Edan signaled the doctor to come forward and examine the
woman lying on the floor. She had multiple broken limbs,
various cuts and bruises, but nothing that he couldn’t fix. He
knew what the Gul was after and he would make sure he got it.
Edan could be very generous or your worst enemy, depending on
how he saw your usefulness to him. He didn’t intend to be on
the wrong side of his nature.

“She’ll be ready for you tomorrow,” the doctor promised him.

“Good. See that she is.”

*********

Kathryn flexed her muscles and wiggled her jaw back and forth.
The doctor had done a good job, she almost felt back to normal.
Almost. He showed her a mirror so she could see he’d taken
care of her bruises and abrasions as well. She didn’t know
whether to thank the doctor or curse him for restoring her to
health. In the end she settled for what she hoped was a
neutral statement.

“I appreciate your efforts, doctor.”

He simply nodded. So much for Cardassian bedside manner, she
thought. She noticed that her uniform had been replaced by
what she assumed was thought to be fashion on Cardassia. The
bodice was extremely low-cut and form fitting, ending in what
could hardly be considered a skirt. Her hair had been washed,
no doubt to remove the encrusted blood that had collected
there, and was now hanging loose down her back. It was the
first time she’d been clean in weeks, and it felt nearly as
good as having her injuries repaired. She sat on the edge of
the bio-bed, afraid to move for fear of having her `attributes’
fall out of the costume she found herself in. The doctor
handed her a pair of shoes with impossibly high heels. Was she
actually supposed to *walk* in those things? The doctor helped
her off the bed and lead her to his office where Gul Edan was
waiting. If she had any doubts about the purpose of the outfit
before, it was blatantly obvious now, as the Gul circled her
like a hungry vulture. Kathryn’s naturally long legs were
enhanced by the shoes she had been given, and the picture she
presented in her skin-tight “dress,” was enticing to say the
least.

“I must say you clean up rather nicely, Ensign,” the Gul said,
trying hard to seem as if her appearance hadn’t significantly
aroused him. “Good work doctor, I think you’ll find a little
something extra waiting in your Latinum account. Shall we my
dear?” He said, waiting to escort her back to his offices.

With as much dignity Kathryn could muster, she walked before
him hoping the elastic band they claimed to be clothing would
remain somewhat in place. From her marches to her different
rooms of torture, Kathryn had an idea of the layout of the
prison, and she knew the route Gul Edan had chosen was not a
direct one to his office. He was parading her before his men,
making sure they all had a chance to get a good eye full. She
found herself turning crimson with humiliation, wishing he
would beat her rather than make her strut through the hallways
of the confinement center. Her only consolation being that
Admiral Paris was unconscious, and unable to witness her
dishonor.

Once inside his office, Gul Edan spelled out what he expected
of her.

“You are here to `amuse’ me Kathryn. May I call you Kathryn?
Or would you prefer a pet name of some sort?” When she refused
to answer, he continued on, obviously enjoying her discomfort.

“I’ll take that as a `yes.’ You will remain here, with me, and
I promise there will be no more interrogations. All you have
to do is make me. . .happy. Cardassia and my family are very
far away and I find myself lonely for companionship. You’re
very attractive, for a human,” he added. Was she supposed to
take that as a compliment?

“Oh, and one more thing. If you get any grand ideas about
`ignoring my attentions,’ you won’t be the one to suffer. I
couldn’t have that lovely body of yours marred by breaks and
bruises, now could I? I think you’re aware that there are
many prisoners here, many are Starfleet, such as yourself and
your companion. What is his name? Oh yes, Admiral Paris.
As I said, you won’t be the one to suffer, but I’m sure one of
them will be more than willing to accept punishment in your
name.”

Kathryn swallowed. What was she going to do? The thought of
giving herself to this odious creature was more than she could
stand, but she couldn’t jeopardize other lives either.
Especially not the Admiral’s. She truly would go mad if she
were the cause of anymore of his pain.

“Agreed,” she whispered.

“What was that my dear? I don’t believe I heard you.”

“I said, `agreed!'”

“I’m glad we’ve got all this nasty business out of the way,
aren’t you? Will you join me for dinner? It looks as though
you haven’t had much chance to sample some of the delicacies
Cardassian cuisine has to offer.” He stood and extended his
hand to her, but she remained glued to her chair.

“It wasn’t a request Kathryn,” he nearly growled at her. He
knew she would test his limits, as any captive would, but he
had hoped she wouldn’t begin so soon.

*********

Dinner had been a trial. While she was hungry, hungrier in
fact than she could ever remember, she ate little, only when he
forced her. Surely he wouldn’t beat someone because she didn’t
clean her plate? It was a small victory, but it did give her
some sense of peace to know she had regained at least a minute
portion of control in this situation. She continued to play
with her food, trying to stall the inevitable, but Edan had
different ideas.

“I believe you have finished Kathryn,” he said, causing her to
flinch the way he pronounced her name, almost as if it were a
profanity. Grabbing her by the upper arm he propelled her from
the eating area of his quarters to the sleeping chamber.

The room was furnished in the same cold style the rest of his
quarters exhibited, and she found herself wondering if it were
a Cardassian trait, or his personal taste. She hardly expected
a warm, cheery atmosphere in a prison, but she would have
thought there would have been some personal mementos in his
private rooms. Pictures of his supposedly estranged family at
the very least. However, the only adornment to grace the
austere walls was a rather prominently displayed weapon, and
she wondered if it had sentimental value or was there to
intimidate her.

Laying on the bed was a piece of filmy lingerie which Edan
nodded to and said, “I’ll be back in a moment. I expect you
to be wearing that.” He crossed to a bathroom, and left her to
dress.

“You sure know how to put a girl in the mood,” she mumbled
under her breath, hoping the sarcasm would steel her for what
she was about to endure. She picked up the garment and noticed
with alarm that it was nearly transparent. Momentarily she
thought to simply place the sheer fabric over the already
revealing outfit she wore, but Gul Edan’s patience with her was
dangerously near it’s end. She couldn’t allow him to follow
through with his threat to hurt the other prisoners in her
stead. Gritting her teeth, she issued a silent prayer to whom
ever or what ever would hear her, and removed one article of
provocative clothing and replaced it with the other.

Edan entered the bed chamber and found her sitting on the edge
of the bed, practically the only piece of furniture in the
room. She had her legs crossed and her arms folded across her
chest, both as a measure to conceal herself and to retain some
warmth. The Gul walked over to her, taking her hand, forcing
her to stand. He was dressed considerably more modestly than
herself, in a pair of loose-fitting silk pants, but his
clothing did nothing to hide his interest in her. She had
never seen a Cardassian out of uniform, but wasn’t surprised to
see the scaly cartilage that graced their faces and necks
extended to their chests as well. With a shuddering thought,
Kathryn wondered if *all* their appendages were equally scaly.

“Now this is the woman I knew you could be when I first spotted
you,” he said, taking in every inch of her with his intense
gaze. “I only wish you hadn’t been exposed to so many
unpleasantries before I found you. You can’t have formed a
very positive opinion of us.”

“Cardassian `hospitality’ is legendary,” she said simply,
feeling her face burn at his intense scrutiny.

“Actually, we can be very hospitable to our friends,” he said,
pouring a liquid into two glasses that rested on a night stand.
As if to make his point about hospitality, he handed her one.
She eyed the forest-green liquid suspiciously.

“Oh come now Kathryn, if I wanted to drug you, don’t you think
I would done so already?” She wondered if maybe he had
somehow. He enjoyed keeping her guessing, and his “advance and
retreat” technique was certainly working at confusing her.

“It’s called Kanarr, and it’s considered a rare vintage on
Cardassia.”

Tentatively she took a sip. The taste of actual alcohol
overwhelmed her taste buds, but then the flavor of the drink
came through. At first it was hot, almost too hot, followed by
a cooling sensation, leaving the slight aftertaste of ginger
and almond. It seem a perfect drink for the Cardassians who’s
personalities also displayed a similar duality.

“What do you think?” Edan always enjoyed watching the face of
someone who was trying Kanarr for the first time. It told him
a lot about a person, how they handled intense sensations that
quickly changed. He was disappointed in Janeway’s countenance.
She had managed to slip a mask of indifference over her
features, denying him his pleasure at seeing her true self.
She was stoic, even by Cardassian standards.

“It’s different,” she stated neutrally.

“Did you like how it felt?” He asked, still trying to elicit a
response from her. Kathryn shrugged her shoulders in an
ambiguous gesture.

“It has the same effect when it’s applied to the skin,” he
added seductively, and she found herself wondering who’s skin
he was referring to.

Taking one more long drink of the Kanarr, and motioning her to
have a little more, he gathered their glasses and replaced them
on the night table. Without warning, he pushed her onto the
bed, tearing the fragile fabric that surrounded her and removed
his own clothing as well. Kathryn began to panic. If perhaps
there had been a bit of a preamble. . . . If only he would dim
the lights. If she hadn’t had to look at his reptilian visage
maybe she would have been able to get through this. . . . But
something inside her snapped, and her Starfleet training
automatically took over. She fought him with everything that
she had, forgetting his warning of the consequences. Her elbow
made contact with his jaw and there was a sickening crunch that
stopped them both from struggling for a brief moment.

Gray-green blood gathered in the corner of his mouth as he left
the bed to examine the extent of the damage she’d done. The
bitch! He wanted nothing more than to slam her beautiful, yet
repulsive face into the wall, and perhaps even beat her to
death as well. But she was too valuable to him, besides the
investment he had recently made in her renewed health, there
was the money he could make with her. Women of any species
were few and far between on this world. He tried his jaw, but
he knew she had broken it. How was he going to explain this to
that smug son-of-a-bitch of a doctor?

Janeway lay on the bed panting, waiting for him to return and
attack her. She could see in his eyes that he wanted to, and
almost gave in, but something stopped him. Instead he grabbed
her long hair and dragged her from the bed.

“Get dressed,” he snarled through his injured mouth, tossing
her former outfit at her. She could see he wanted to say more
to her, but his broken face wouldn’t allow it. Disappearing
into the bathroom, he returned dressed in his uniform. Without
a word to her, he left, knowing she would test all the exits,
but she would find none that would open to her.

*********

Kathryn paced the rooms like the caged animal she was. Back in
her cell she didn’t have to worry that her space was too
limited to move–she couldn’t even if she’d wanted to, and she
never wanted to move again when they returned her.

She’d tried every means of escape she could think of to get
away from Edan’s quarters. She had found a cleverly concealed
access panel, but it only got her into the Gul’s office.
Security measures on that exit were even more stringent than
the ones she broken through. Still searching for an access
panel, she heard the screams. They weren’t muffled like the
ones she heard on the cell block. These were being piped in.
A direct comm link to one of the interrogation rooms. There
was the sound of a weak voice pleading for no more, to just let
them die. And then the hollow laugh of the guards. One of
them started to mimic the man’s plea for release, just before
there was another gut-wrenching sound of an object striking
the prisoner. Silence. Then:

“Did you kill him?”

“No, he should make it one more day.”

Janeway ran to the farthest corner of the office and covered
her ears as she heard another victim being dragged in to
receive her punishment. She shrank herself into the smallest
ball she could and cowered in the corner. Tears were streaming
down her face as she rocked back and forth, singing the German
lullaby her mother sang to her as a child, trying to erase the
sound of the next man’s torture.

Hours later Gul Edan released the lock on his office and
noticed a figure hunched in the corner. He knew immediately
that it was her, and he was impressed she had managed to break
into his office. He could see he was going to have to beef up
the security measures on his personal quarters. Due to his
separation from her, most of his anger was gone. He’d hardly
expected her to roll over and allow him to have sex with her,
but he hadn’t anticipated her violent reaction either. It was
a mistake he wouldn’t make again. As soon as the doctor had
repaired his jaw he issued the order to torture several
individuals and have the comm channel to his office and
quarters opened. He had knew the effect it would have on her.
He was counting on it. As he stood before her, he saw his
methods had been effective, and without a word to her, walked
into his quarters and shut the door.

Kathryn didn’t know how long she sat shivering in the corner of
the dark office. The screams had long since stopped, but no
matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t turn the sound of them
off in her head. He had her. And he knew it. That was why he
hadn’t spoken to her. There was no need. Standing on shaky
legs she slowly walked towards his quarters, stopping before a
sink to wash the tear stains from her face. A part of her died
in his office that night, and she was about to sacrifice
another part. Walking into Edan’s bed chamber she stood at the
end of his bed and silently removed her dress. He watched her
actions in equal silence, as he made room for her in the large
bed that dominated the room. Still neither spoke. There was
nothing to say.

*********

Days went by, then it was weeks. She’d given up keeping track
of the time, after all, what was the point. She and Edan had
an uneasy truce, and each day blended into the next, always
culminating in his using her body for his release. She was
able to disassociate herself from the action for the most part,
and she was getting better at it. At first she would try to
remember the names of all the students that were in her classes
with her back at the Academy. As she pictured them in her mind
and tried to attach a name, she found that she could distract
herself enough to block out what was happening to her body.
Edan knew what she was doing and so did his level best to break
her with seduction, but he had been unable to get through to
her. It was her one small victory over him. Seeing her drift
off yet again, Edan thought it was time to change the nature of
their “relationship.”

At first he was selfish and wanted her to himself, regardless
of the profit he was losing. He reveled in the envious looks
his men gave him that he had a woman, any woman to share his
bed. But lately the envy of his men wasn’t enough. He was
getting bored with her and decided that by introducing a little
more humiliation to the mix might bring her around. After all,
once she was passed amongst his men, wouldn’t she beg him to
take her back and be the only one she was required to have sex
with? And if it didn’t break her, at least he’d have the
Latinum for comfort.

Kathryn felt her throat go dry as Gul Edan revealed his latest
attempt to get her to succumb to his demands. She’d become
quite the actress lately and managed to keep a bland look on
her face as he told her, in graphic detail, what she could
expect from his men. She simply stared off into space, as if
bored, and lifted the fork mechanically to her mouth. The
food, turning to sawdust in her mouth, was washed down with a
fair amount of Kanarr. She had discovered a liking for it, or
more appropriately, the pleasant “buzzy” feeling it gave her.
He watched her knock back the drink as if it were Ferengi
synthale.

“Take it easy on the Kanarr,” he snapped. “That’s the last of
it, and it *is* a little costly for you to be drinking as if it
were water.” Kathryn was in an equally fowl mood, with the
revelation of her latest “duty.” She took her index finger and
traced the rim of her glass, slowly, capturing his attention,
then she raised the digit to her mouth and sucked off the
Kanarr she had collected. Edan swallowed at her overtly sexual
gesture.

“Gods, you’re such a whore,” he spat out at her.

“If I am, it’s all thanks to your careful instruction, and
likely I’ll be even more skilled before the week is out.” She
rose and tossed the remainder of the Kanarr in his face.

Immediately Edan was on his feet, hand raised, as if to strike
her.

“Go ahead!” She screamed. “Why don’t you just hit me? You
know you want to! Or will that diminish my `value?’ I’ve seen
your men Edan, been one of their `guests.’ I don’t think a few
bruises will matter to them as long as I can still open my
legs!”

He didn’t know what to do with her anymore. Any thing he did
to reach her would invariably end with her in some self-induced
semi-catatonic state, where nothing he did mattered. Maybe he
*should* beat her! But that’s what she wanted. She wanted him
to kill her to release her from her guilt. He wasn’t ready to
do that just yet. He still had the option of multiple rape he
could use against her, and now with her waspish behavior, he
felt it was the only choice he had left. He was *not* going to
be beaten by this piddling little Ensign from a race of
weaklings!

*********

Kathryn found herself in one of the interrogation rooms, but
all the instruments of torture had been removed.

“Welcome my little bird,” she heard Edan’s voice over the comm
channel. God she hated it when he called her that! Did he
know how close it was to her father’s term of endearment,
Goldenbird? He couldn’t. It had to be a coincidence. Still
it was one of the most trying things about her association with
the Gul. A constant reminder of the home she would never see
again.

“Where are you?” she asked the empty room.

“In my office. Where did you think I’d be?”

“Either here, to watch, or in your bedroom, playing along.”

“Kathryn, Kathryn,” he admonished her, “what happened to the
shy, virginal girl you were when I first met you?”

“You fucked it out of me,” she said with a coarse laugh,
wanting to be as crude as he had made her feel.

“Your `guests’ should be arriving shortly,” he said, taken
aback at her statement.

“Oh good. Will it be one at a time or are we having a party?”
She knew he could see her, although she couldn’t see him. She
willed herself to stand still. She would not give him the
satisfaction of seeing her tremble with the fear she felt.
Just then the door opened with a hiss of air, admitting the
guards. She tried not to count, but couldn’t stop herself.
Fifteen. All waiting to have a turn at her. Kathryn hadn’t
realized she’d backed up to the wall until her body made
contact with the cold metal. The men advanced into the room;
some she recognized, others she didn’t. She was sure she’d
know them all by the end of the evening. Trying to focus her
mind anywhere but in the room she occupied, she wished for the
millionth time that she had taken Vulcan meditative techniques
at the Academy, so she could place herself somewhere safe while
the men brutalized her physical shell.

*********

Kathryn still lay on the ice-cold floor of the interrogation
room, but now she was thankfully alone. Or was she? She
sensed a presence in the room, but it wasn’t moving, at least
not very much. Suddenly there was a burst of smoke and light
as the room’s surveillance equipment exploded.

“Come on!” She heard a voice urge her. Some one was pulling
her to her feet. A man. He was dressed in black, and from his
height and build, obviously not Cardassian.

“Who are you?” She whispered, trying to hold her clothing
around her. The first Cardassian had taken care of ripping it
to shreds in his haste to reach her.

“Starfleet Rangers,” he hissed in her ear. He started leading
her away from the cell block.

“Wait! Admiral Paris!” she cried, trying to escape his grip.

“We’ve already got him! Your the last one! Nice diversion by
the way!” If the situation hadn’t been so desperate, she would
have slapped him. As it was, she probably *had* made it
possible for the Rangers to do their jobs. With almost all the
guards occupied, the Rangers probably could have walked in the
front door. The man handed her a blanket.

“I figured you’d need this,” he said as he pushed her through
the opening he and the other Rangers had created upon their
entrance to the prison.

As Kathryn’s memories started to mesh with those she had of her
rescue at the hands of Justin and the Rangers, she found
herself momentarily disoriented. Where was she? Chakotay’s
cabin? What was she. . . .Then she remembered starting to tell
him. But had she told him? She remembered seeing the images
from the past, but had she told him what she had seen? She put
her hands to her face and discovered her wet cheeks. She must
have been crying because her face was soaked. Stealing a
glance at Chakotay she had the answer to her questions. She
*had* told him, somehow. The pain written on his face was
evident. But what about the rest? Surely he must be repulsed
by her, by the way she had given herself to the Cardassians.
Justin understood. He’d been in a Cardassian prison and risked
re-capture in order to save her. Mark tried to understand, but
she had to admit she never really gave him the chance to fully
comprehend what had happened to her. And Chakotay? He’d been
incarcerated as well, but would he understand that she felt she
had no choice in order to spare the lives of her fellow
prisoners?

“Kathryn? Are you. . . .” Chakotay’s voice trailed off as he
attempted touch her.

“DON’T TOUCH ME!” she screamed, moving away from him,
scrunching herself up into an even smaller ball. She started
sobbing again, close to hysteria. He didn’t know what to do
with her. All he wanted to do was to take her in his arms and
chase away her fears, but she was clearly still in the grip of
those emotions. Maybe the Doctor could do something for her!

“Chakotay to the Doctor,” he called, tapping his comm badge.

“This is the Doctor,” he replied causally.

“Doctor I need you in my quarters, now! Something’s happened to
the Captain,” he said, momentarily forgetting that the Doctor
would think he was the Captain.

“Why are you referring to yourself in the third person?” The
Doctor asked, puzzled.

“Captain. . .Commander. . .Janeway! Kathryn!” He tried to
clarify “Hurry!”

Almost simultaneously the Doctor appeared in Chakotay’s
quarters. “Please state the nature of . . . .My God! What
have you done to her?”

“Me?”

“She is in your quarters,” The Doctor noted as he began his
examination of Janeway. At his approach, she became agitated
once more, and tried to back away from him.

“Would you mind telling me what happened here?” The Doctor
asked as he prepared a sedative. Without divulging any of
Kathryn’s secrets, he gave the Doctor a brief synopsis.

“Well it’s obvious she’s having a physical reaction to her
traumatic memories,” the Doctor said, “can’t you be a little
more specific?”

“I really don’t think it’s my place to say, you’ll have to ask
her.”

“She’s hardly in a position to answer my questions!” He
replied with his usual amount of sarcasm.

“Can’t you just give her the sedative for now? I’ll make sure
she talks to you in the morning.”

The Doctor considered his options. He could insist she be
moved to Sickbay, but beyond rest, there wasn’t anything he
could do for her at this point. He should probably monitor
her, but he could do that with a portable dermal attachment.

“Very well,” he acquiesced, “make sure she continues to wear
the monitor, and I want to see her before duty tomorrow.” He
assumed Chakotay would watch over her through the night without
him instructing him to do so.

“Help me hold her so I can give her the sedative,” the Doctor
ordered. It took both of them to hold the resisting woman for
the Doctor to administer the hypospray. Within seconds Kathryn
relaxed and began to drift off to sleep.

“. . . .so sorry. . . .” she mumbled as the drug took over her
system. Chakotay thanked the Doctor and waited for him to
vanish before joining her on the sofa. She was still wrapped
in the blanket he had given her earlier. Sitting beside her,
he pulled her enveloped form into his arms and stretched out on
the couch, holding her like a distraught child. He brushed the
hair out of her face and hugged her tighter.

“It’s over now Kathryn,” he spoke to her inert form. And as
held her, he felt his own tears start to fall, for the pain she
had endured all those years ago, and the pain she would have to
face in the coming days.

*PROPER ORDER PART 3*
All disclaimers from part 1 apply

Kathryn woke with a start. Where was she? Glancing around,
she realized she wasn’t in her quarters. Who’s were they?
Chakotay’s? What was. . . .? She felt a body beneath her,
someone holding her. Looking up she saw Chakotay, propped up
on the end of the couch, half reclining as he held her firmly
in place. Memories of the night before flooded her as she
struggled to sit up.

“Oh God,” she moaned, rubbing her face with her hands. She
*had* told him everything. It wasn’t just a dream. She had a
hell of a headache, and when she went to rub her neck, she felt
a round piece of metal attached to her skin.

“What the. . . ?” She questioned, pulling the monitor off her
neck. Almost immediately she heard the chirp of her comm
badge.

“Doctor to Commander Janeway.”

“Janeway here,” came the hoarse, tired voice.

“Why have you removed the dermal monitor?”

“Is that what this is? Why do I have it in the first place?”
She asked, not remembering receiving it.

At the sound of voices and her movement, Chakotay woke and
disengaged himself from her. Kathryn tightened the blanket, as
if in an effort to protect herself.

“If you do not replace the monitor, I’ll have you beamed to
Sickbay,” the Doctor
warned.

She sighed and replaced the disk. “Is that better?” She
snapped.

“Much. I expect to see you here for a full examination by
09:00 hours. Is that clear?”

“Perfectly, Doctor,” she answered, avoiding looking in
Chakotay’s direction.

“Good!” The Doctor replied, happy that for once Kathryn
Janeway seemed to be following doctor’s orders. “Doctor out.”
The communication channel closed and Janeway stood to leave.

“Kathryn wait,” Chakotay said, trying to take her by the arms,
but she pulled out of his grasp, still unable to face him. “I
think we should talk about this, don’t you?”

“Not now!” She cried and ran for the door, but they remained
closed. Pounding on them she begged,

“Please, Chakotay, open the doors.” In her agitation she
hadn’t stopped to wonder why they were locked.

“We need to talk about this!”

“I can’t,” came her anguished cry, “not right now. Please let
me go!”

Uncertain if he should let her leave in her current state, he
finally relented and said, “Computer, release the door.” As
soon as there was a gap large enough for her to slip through,
she was gone, still clutching his blanket. He saw her enter
her quarters and heard the sound of the privacy lock engaging.
Unsure of what to do next, he returned to his rooms and
prepared for his duty shift. Hopefully the routine would help
him regain his perspective and allow her the time she needed.

*********

Kathryn sagged against the door of her cabin and instructed the
computer to initialize the security lock. She scanned the room
for her chronometer and noted it was 06:20–almost three hours
before she was due in Sickbay. God, how was she going to face
him again? What must he think of her? The whore to the
Cardassians. She thought she had worked through this, well
most of it. After her rescue, she had gone into intensive
psycho therapy to help her deal with the events of her
imprisonment. For the most part, the counseling worked, and
after about seven weeks, she was seen fit to return to active
duty. Justin had been right there by her side. He never
reproached her for her conduct or had to wonder why she did
what she had. He understood. Kathryn had begun to cling to
him as if he were a life line. She *did* love him, but she
knew it was a desperate love, one born of her need to be
accepted despite her past. They had never been lovers. Justin
was raised by strict Moralists, and he felt intimacies should
be shared only between married people, so when he insisted they
wait to have sex, she hadn’t objected. Secretly she had been
relieved. After Gul Edan and his men, she wasn’t sure how she
would react to a man, even one she loved. She didn’t have to
wonder for long about her sexual future with Justin, as he died
before the issue could be forced.

With her father and Justin’s deaths, she found herself spending
even more time in the counseling offices at Starfleet
headquarters. When she thought about it now, it was a wonder
she was allowed to persue a career in Command, much less to
receive a prestigious honor such as *Voyager.* Her experiences
*had* honed her, made her stronger on one level, but left her
more vulnerable on others.

Mark seemed to understand her need to remain “unattached.” His
quiet acceptance of her was apparently just what she needed.
He never pushed her to become more intimate, hoping she’d turn
to him when the time was right. She had told him of her
imprisonment, but left out anything having to deal with Gul
Edan. He had been her friend since her school days, and she
couldn’t bear the thought of his disappointment and
disapproval. So they lived their lives almost as brother and
sister. She loved him, but when ever he would get too close
she would shut down and not allow him to touch her beyond a few
kisses. He knew there had to be something she wasn’t telling
him, but he didn’t push her. She would tell him when she was
ready.

Kathryn loved him for his patience and understanding, but had
no idea he was helping feed her neurosis. It got to the time
where she could get through the day without thinking of what
she had done, what she’d become. If her feminine needs weren’t
being met, she compensated in other ways. She became “touchy-
feely” Kathryn. The only intimate contact she allowed herself
with another being was a comforting touch here and there. And
Mark seemed to understand, somehow. No one was aware they
shared a purely platonic relationship.

Up until that moment Kathryn hadn’t realized how many of the
same qualities Chakotay and Mark shared. Both were quietly
supportive of her, both willing to wait until she was ready to
accept them. What had she done to inspire such devotion from
these men? She who hadn’t had the strength to come up with
another alternative in that prison, and so took the cowards way
and gave into Edan’s demands. But she truly hadn’t done it for
herself. It had been to stop the agony of the people she heard
echoing in her mind, that she sometimes still heard. The
counselors had tried to convince her she had been a victim, and
not responsible for what she had been forced to do. To forgive
herself, allow the compassion she so readily showed others to
extended to herself. She still hadn’t been able to do that,
and until she could, no one would be permitted in.

Kathryn crossed the room slowly, deciding a hot bath might
help. Soaking in the steaming water she thought about the pain
she had seen written on Chakotay’s face. She must have really
disgusted him for that look to remain for so long. She hadn’t
meant to hurt him. In fact she had intended just the opposite.
She thought by telling him the truth, he’d understand her
reticence at becoming involved with him. Also, she hadn’t
planned on being quite so “detailed.” Originally she had only
thought to tell him she had been the victim of a sexual
assault, and it was her unresolved memories of the incident
that continued to haunt her, and cause her to freeze up when
things started to heat up. But somehow her subconscious had
other ideas, and took her to the place she had learned so well
to avoid. Maybe it knew something that she didn’t, for
although she was mortified that she had been so explicit in her
revelation, she did feel “lighter.” In some ways more at peace
with herself than she had felt in ages.

When had she allowed herself to trust him so completely that
she could share something this intensely personal with him?
She felt more exposed than if she had stood naked before him.
And how was it she could find the courage to tell him, when
after nearly ten years, she couldn’t tell Mark? She reached
down and picked up the locket she still had around her neck.
She never wanted to take it off. It seemed almost a talisman,
a charm against the evils she faced. Physical evidence of
Chakotay’s devotion. Did he wish he hadn’t given it to her
now? Did he wish the moment back? Part of her wished it had
never occurred, as it had lead to her disclosure, and another
part wouldn’t trade back the moment for anything. She opened
the clasp and saw the tiny reminder of their life together and
started to sob. Why did it have to take something this
devastating for her to realize she loved him? Loved him enough
to lay her soul bare to him. And now he would never look at
her the same way again.

*********

Kathryn had managed to get through her check-up with the Doctor
and not reveal what he was really digging for–the reason for
her hysteria the night before. To be perfectly honest, she
hadn’t remembered the episode, but didn’t doubt she’d reacted
as he told her she had. He could find no medical reason she
shouldn’t return to her duties, but he advised her to take the
day off, or at the very least cut back for a day or two. She
surprised the both of them by agreeing to take the day off. As
much as she wanted to finish her project before the month was
up, she didn’t feel she could face the happy camaraderie of the
science lab. They’d gotten to know her too well, and would try
to help, and would only make her feel worse. As the senior
officer, she didn’t have to report her day off to anyone,
beyond the courtesy of letting her colleges know she wouldn’t
be in that day. So Kathryn Janeway did the unthinkable. She
took the day off to go fishing.

*********

Chakotay learned of Kathryn’s unlikely behavior quite by
accident. Lt. Tyler was standing in a large group of people,
telling anyone who would listen how Janeway was playing hooky.
He saw Tom Paris in the crowd shaking his head with
disappointment. No doubt he didn’t have any odds on this
particular event and had lost a fortune in replicator rations.
He was glad she was taking a break today after the trying time
she’d had the night before, but he was worried that she was
closing herself off from everyone. Especially from him. He’d
give her until the end of his duty shift, but then she *would*
talk to him.

He had felt so helpless as she relayed her narrative to him.
He could almost see her as a green Ensign on her first mission.
No wonder Harry Kim had found a special place in her
sympathies. He could see her bravely facing her aggressors
until they’d worn her down to nothing, and still they hadn’t
managed to break her compassionate nature. Even at that age
she was willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of others.
It was no coincidence that Owen Paris recognized her as a
natural leader and advised her to change the focus of her
career. But she was being too hard on herself. She had found
a way to stay alive, and to spare her fellow prisoners
additional anguish, but she hadn’t seen it that way. Some
thing was missing. He instinctively felt there was some part
she hadn’t told him. Something she must have felt was even
more reprehensible than rape alone. Maybe even she wasn’t
aware of it. Perhaps it was a memory so terrible, she had
completely repressed it. Wouldn’t something like that have
come out during her analysis? He didn’t know, and he couldn’t
risk asking the Doctor about it without raising even more
suspicions. He would have to try and do this on his own.

*********

Chakotay had never had such a long shift. He was sure the
Bridge crew had noticed his lack of focus and general fidgety
behavior, but to their credit, none had mentioned it. As the
chime announced the end of Alpha Shift, Chakotay practically
bolted for the turbo-lift, but was intercepted by Tuvok.

“A word, if I may Captain.”

`Damn it!’ Chakotay thought. `All day to approach me with
what ever’s on his mind and he has to wait until I need to get
out of here!’ “Of course Tuvok,” he sighed. “Can we do this
here or do you prefer the Ready Room?”

“I think perhaps *you* would prefer the Ready Room, Sir.”

“After you,” Chakotay said, his curiosity piqued. Obviously
he had something of a personal nature to relate to him or he
would have brought it up on the Bridge. As the doors closed on
the Ready Room, Chakotay turned to the Security Officer.

“What’s on your mind Tuvok?”

“I think the question should be rather, `what’s on your mind,’
Sir.”

Was it possible Tuvok was making a joke? “I’m not sure I
understand.”

“I’m concerned about her as well,” he stated, unwilling to
speak Janeway’s name, as if speaking it would put Chakotay in
the position of having to admit it was indeed her that had been
on his mind all day. “According to the logs, the Doctor was
called to your quarters at 02:45 this morning to administer
medical assistance,” he continued. “While your off hours are
your own affair, when it’s something that concerns the
temporary Commander, I feel it is a Security matter.”

“We were just talking, Tuvok,” he said, feeling he had to
defend Kathryn’s honor.

“Be that as it may, I find it also distressing she found it
necessary to remove herself from duty today.”

“How did you find that out?”

“I have my sources,” Tuvok replied with a completely straight
face. “Mr. Paris is one particularly lucrative source.”

Chakotay almost smiled. Gods it was a small ship!

“Something is obviously upsetting her,” Tuvok forged on. “In
the past she used to confide in me, but as of late she seems to
have found another outlet.” The last was said without a trace
jealousy, and Chakotay wondered if he could be as gracious if
their positions were reversed. He discovered he was beginning
to have a new-found respect for the Vulcan. It couldn’t have
been easy for him to admit to Chakotay that he knew he had been
replaced as a confidant on some levels, and yet he approached
the situation as he did everything in his life: the knowledge
that logic would see him through. Chakotay hadn’t realized it
before, but his logic was also his religion–a force he gave
himself over to completely and with unquestioned trust.

“I thought perhaps you would like to know she is on Holodeck
2,” Tuvok informed him.

Chakotay wondered why Tuvok had insisted on this private
meeting. He didn’t need the Security Chief to locate Janeway,
the computer could do that, so why the conference? Then it
dawned on him. Tuvok couldn’t come right out and say he
approved of his relationship with Kathryn, as technically it
was none of his business. But as a friend, he felt he had some
right to expressing his views on their association. Tuvok
used supposed protocol the same way he himself used “ancient
legends” to impart information he didn’t necessarily want to
come right out and say.

Chakotay’s grin widened and he patted the surprised man on the
back. “Thanks Tuvok. I think I’ll be on Holodeck 2 if you
need me.”

As Tuvok watched him cross to the turbo-lift, he lifted one eye
brow. “Indeed.”

*********

As he suspected, the privacy lock was engaged on Holodeck 2.
He was about to issue an order for an override, when he stopped
for a moment. No doubt Kathryn would be upset and angry at his
intrusion. Steeling himself for an argument, he said,

“Computer, override Holodeck 2 privacy lock. Authorization
Chakotay Beta one.” There was silence for a moment, then the
computer informed him,

“Privacy lock has been disengaged.” He heard the familiar
sound of the doors opening, and stepped through the Arch.
Kathryn had accessed a program of a warm, summer Earth day, and
he could hear the sound of water running, where he assumed he’d
find her. He wasn’t disappointed. She sat on the edge of the
brook, dressed in shorts and a tank top, her feet dangling in
the stream. If his business hadn’t been so serious, he
probably would have enjoyed the program. He’d have to ask her
to bring him here again sometime.

“Kathryn,” he spoke her name softly, not wanting to startle
her, but hadn’t succeeded.

Janeway whipped around at the sound of his voice. “How did you
get in here?” She demanded.

“Some times it’s good to be the Captain.”

“Don’t forget it’s a temporary title,” she snapped at him,
turning to face the creek once more. She should have
remembered he’d have access to the override protocols, but in
her emotional state, she had forgotten.

Chakotay had noticed her red, tired eyes. Apparently she
hadn’t had much luck in working things out. He sat down next
to her.

“Mind if I join you?”

“And if I said `yes?'”

“I’d ignore you,” he said, hoping that by teasing her he might
find an opening to continue. He noted her fishing pole laying
on the bank next to her.

“I didn’t know you liked to fish. I would have thought it
would have been too close to camping for you to enjoy it.”

“My Grandfather used to take me. And yes, I didn’t
particularly care for it, but he was a wonderful listener, and
usually had some good advice.”

“And did he have some insights for you today?”

“I didn’t activate his program,” she answered, looking at her
finger’s intwine themselves in each other, rather than look in
his direction. He sat very close to her, and was making her
uncomfortable. Stripping off his boots and socks, he dipped
his feet into the cool stream next to hers.

“That feels good,” he sighed. “I thought the shift was never
going to end today.”

“It’s not going to work, Chakotay.”

“What?” He asked, feigning innocence.

“Trying to act as if nothing happened. Some thing *did*
happen, and I can’t just sit here with you as if this were a
casual afternoon on the Holodeck!” She jumped up and attempted
to run for the exit, but Chakotay caught up with her and
grabbed her by the arm. Not aggressively, just enough force to
stop her flight from the room.

“We have to talk about this, Kathryn! Don’t run out on me
again!”

Her voice caught in her throat, “I don’t know if I can. I
can’t even look at you!”

“Then look,” he said, taking her chin and swiveling her face
to look up into his. “I’m the same man I was yesterday.
Nothing has changed! You think I see you as this terrible
person, but if it’s possible, I think I respect you even more.
Knowing what you faced, and that you were able to come out of
it stronger, just confirms what I’ve known about you all along.
That you’re a fighter, and you won’t let this interfere with
your life anymore!”

She looked into his eyes for the first time since her
confession. It was true. She saw none of the revulsion she
had expected to find there, only compassion and understanding.
How could he be so accepting? He truly seemed sincere when he
said it didn’t matter. But how could it *not* make a
difference to him?

He tried to pull her into his embrace but she pushed him away.
“How can you stand to touch me after. . .after knowing what I
did?”

“Kathryn, it wasn’t your fault! What choice did you have?
What kind of a person would you be, would you have become, if
you hadn’t sacrificed so much of yourself to save the others?”

“But it should have been me they were beating,” she said,
turning away from him as the tears started to come.

“Gul Edan had much more effective ways of hurting you. He knew
physical wounds would heal, but the effects of emotional scars
would be much more far reaching. I *know* what those bastards
are capable of, remember? And remember the trouble I had
reconciling my feelings over the Vori? How you helped me see I
was a victim of their methods, and not responsible for my
actions? Why won’t you give yourself the same credit? Why
won’t you let me help *you* for a change?”

“Oh, I wish you could,” she sighed, as if the weight of the
world were on her shoulders.

“I can if you’ll just let me! Kathryn, I know there’s
something you’re not telling me.”

She turned quickly to look at him. How could he know? Had he
seen through her? Did he really know the part she had
“conveniently” left out? He couldn’t, or else he wouldn’t be
so understanding. It was one thing to be a victim and quite
another to having been a willing participant. Perhaps that was
the wrong term. Consciously she hadn’t been willing, but her
body had different ideas. Just the thought that Edan had
managed to excite her made her feel like vomiting. Did he know
he had forever placed a curse on her intimate relationships?
Had he realized how effective his torture had been? How she
had been so relieved that Justin wanted to wait, and that Mark
had been so patient? But what about Chakotay? Here was a man
she didn’t want to leave on the side lines, but she didn’t know
if she was even capable of having sex with him. Would she
seize up as she did with just a mere kiss? How much more
evasion would he put up with?

“There *is* something else, isn’t there?” Chakotay pressed.
“Kathryn, you can tell me. I promise I’ll understand.”

“You can’t make a promise like that,” she almost snorted. She
started to walk into the trees, but he followed her, saying
nothing, but not letting her escape either. She stopped behind
one trunk and leaned her back against it. He started to come
around on her side, but she stopped him.

“I can’t do this if you’re so close,” she whispered.

“Fine,” he said, removing himself to tree a few meters away.
He could see her profile, her hair shining in the sun, and he
prayed to the Gods that he’d have the strength and the ability
to help her.

Kathryn squared her shoulders and took a deep breath, wishing
she had the luxury of an altered state, as she had last night
when she managed to expose herself. This was so much harder,
being aware of making the choice to tell him of her deepest,
secret fear. Tears of anguish and shame filled her eyes as she
managed to say,

“I’m sexually dysfunctional.”

Chakotay was stunned. How did he respond to a statement like
that?

“See,” she said, “you shouldn’t have promised. Edan’s final.
. . gift to me was leaving me unfit for a normal relationship.
He tried so hard to break me, if only he knew he had.” Sobbing
uncontrollably, she slid down the trunk of the tree and wrapped
her arms around her knees, pulling herself into a tight ball.
Chakotay started to move forward, but she begged him,

“Please don’t come any closer!”

“All right,” he conceded, “if that’s what you want.” He was
silent for a moment, then he started to question her reasoning.

“Kathryn, I’ve seen how you are with people, you’re constantly
in contact with them. You have a passionate nature.”

“‘Touch-feely Janeway,'” she supplied, trying to wipe the
tears from her face, but they continued to fall. Chakotay
started to deny the nick-name but she stopped him, her breath
coming in little gasps as she tried to control her emotions.

“It’s…okay…I’ve…heard…it…before.” She was busy
wiping her eyes, so Chakotay took advantage of her distraction
to move closer.

“Then you have to know you’re putting this pressure on
yourself. People who truly have sexual problems wouldn’t allow
anyone near them, much less initiate contact by touching
someone. I’m not trying to belittle what happened to you, or
say it’s `all in your head,’ but I think you’re just scared.
Maybe that you’ll feel like you’re back in that prison or in
one of you’re own making, I don’t know. But I do know that
you’re not a lost cause, and I’m not about to give up on you
Kathryn Janeway.” He had managed to walk over to where she
sat, curled up at the base of the huge oak. Partially
blocking the sun with his body, it was difficult to see his
face. She had to look into his eyes, to read what he truly
felt. Struggling against the tree, she stood and managed to
look deep into his soul. His heart was in their dark depths,
and surprisingly, she had never felt so calm and reassured in
her life. The poignancy of the moment brought fresh tears to
her eyes.

“Don’t cry Kathryn,” Chakotay’s voice soothed as she allowed
him to take her into his arms. “Don’t cry. We’ll get through
this together. Shhh. I love you. I love you Kathryn. Don’t
ever forget that.”

She was shocked. How could he be so forgiving, so
understanding? He said he loved her? She supposed she knew
it, but he’d never come right out and said it before. She
wanted to tell him she felt the same, but there had been enough
revelations for one twenty-four hour period. Hugging him
tighter she whispered in his ear,

“I know.”

As he continued to embrace her, he felt the locket he had given
her pressing into his chest, reminding him that she was indeed,
home.

*********

A starting point. At least they had one now, Chakotay thought.
It wouldn’t be an easy road, but he felt he was up to the
challenge. Although he knew it could be a long time before she
could accept him into her life, at least he had an answer to
some of his questions, and that in it self was a comfort, a
relief.

This was the last week of their experimental duty swap. He was
sorry to see it end, and at the same time he looked forward to
having things back in their proper order, with her on the
Bridge and he at her side. With her grace and dignity, Kathryn
would always be “the Captain,” regardless of her rank.
Thinking of it now, he found it remarkable she had been able to
rise above all the suffering in her short life. She saw them
as weaknesses, but Chakotay knew them for what they were–tests
of character, all of which she had passed with flying colors.

Chakotay was shaken from his reverie by Harry Kim’s excited
voice. After these last years he had settled into his job, but
still couldn’t contain the slightly nervous tone that crept
into his voice when he spotted something he didn’t think he
should.

“Captain, I’m reading several ships off the port bow!”

“Heading Ensign?”

“Zero four, mark eight. They look to be Kazon Sir!” One or
two Kazon ship’s didn’t pose a threat to *Voyager,* but an
armada did.

“Mr. Paris, bring us around. Go to Yellow Alert. Tuvok?”
Chakotay asked, knowing the Vulcan didn’t require any special
instructions to give his report.

“I confirm Mr. Kim’s readings. There are five Kazon ships
heading this way at top speed. They’re powering their
weapons,” Tuvok answered, fingers flying over his console.

“Raise shields and power our weapons as well. Tom, can we out
run them?” Chakotay asked the Pilot.

“It’s unlikely. Normally I would say yes, but with all the
quiet, B’Elanna’s been working on a re-fit of the warp coils.
Best we can do is Warp 2.” Chakotay remembered sanctioning
that re-fit two days ago. He would have thought it would have
been done by now.

“Chakotay to B’Elanna,” he called out, “What’s the status of
our Warp drive?”

B’Elanna was rushing around Engineering doing ten different
things at once, sounding distracted as she answered him.
“During the re-fit we had a little accident and a crack
developed in one of the new coils.”

“Why wasn’t informed of this?”

“Because I would have had it fixed by the end of the shift!”
She growled at him. It would have been in my report tomorrow!
Hopefully I can get you Warp 3 in about fifteen minutes.
Torres out.”

“That’s not going to do it,” Tom said as he brought the ship
around. “What are the Kazon doing so far out here anyway?
Even at top speed they wouldn’t have been able to get here, let
alone make it through Borg space.”

“You’re right,” Chakotay said, puzzled. “Harry, scan those
ships for life signs. Let’s see if there’s Kazon aboard, or if
it’s just their ships.”

Harry ran the scan and confirmed his commanding officer’s
suspicions. “They’re not Kazon, Sir. They’re a race I haven’t
seen before. They’re hailing us!”

“On screen,” he ordered.

“Starfleet vessel, this is Malla of the M’narra Alliance. You
will power down your weapons and prepare to be boarded.”

The person on the screen appeared humanoid, but he couldn’t
discern the gender. The universal translator projected the
voice as female, and Chakotay wondered if he shouldn’t call
Kathryn to the Bridge. Not only was this her ship, but perhaps
dealing with another female would help defuse the situation.
The person before him was ashen in appearance, with long,
stringy gray hair that reminded him of the old Earth style
known as dreadlocks. The clothes were also gray, as was what
he could see of the interior of their ship.

“How do you know of us? We pose you no threat, we’re just
passing through on our way home to. . . .”

“I know why you’re here,” Malla replied venomously. You will
stand down and prepare to be boarded!”

“How did you come to acquire your ships? I know they’re not
from this region of space and that. . . .”

“This communication is ended,” Malla said, and the screen went
blank.

“Friendly sort,” Tom quipped. “They don’t exactly remind you
of the welcoming committee on Risa, do they?”

“That’s enough, Paris,” Chakotay scolded him, but he was
thinking the same thing, only he didn’t have the luxury of
voicing it. “Any ideas?” he asked to Bridge officers.

“We can not out run them,” Tuvok observed, “But we do have
superior weapons. However, with the number of ships they have
at their disposal, it puts us at a distinct disadvantage.”

“Tom, take us away from here as fast as you can. I realize we
won’t out run them, but it will give us a little more time. Go
to Warp 3 as soon as it’s available.”

*********

Kathryn was at her station doing what she could to wrap up her
research. She had been close to having some real discoveries,
but she’d run out of time. She considered extending her stay
to finish her project, but she missed the Bridge. She knew now
that she had chosen the correct path in life when she chose
Command. Perhaps if she had never tasted the rewards of being
in control of a Starship she would have been perfectly happy as
a scientist, but she had, and there was no going back.

She had decided to let Alyssa Myers finish the work on the
pulsars. For any number of reasons, she had become very
interested in Janeway’s work and expressed an interest in
building on it.

“Alyssa,” Kathryn called her over, “why don’t you have a look
at this.” She explained where she had been heading with her
theories, and saw the questioning look in the former Maquis’
eyes.

“Commander?” She asked, waiting for Janeway to explain what
she was getting at.

“This will probably be my last day down here,” Kathryn told
the young woman. In a lot of ways she reminded her of herself.
An eager scientist, wanting only to prove herself. She had
felt much the same way when she was first posted to the
*Icarus.* Her mind started to head down that path again, but
she quickly ended it. She couldn’t allow herself to loose
focus and dwell on the past.

“And I need, I would like, someone to finish the work for me.
Would you be interested?”

“Me? I mean yes! I would be honored!” Ensign Myers sputtered.

“Good, now that that’s settled, I think. . . .” Just then
Kathryn heard the call for Yellow Alert. She tapped her comm
badge,

“Janeway to Bridge! What’s going on up there?” Silence. She
was sure the link had gone through. He must be too busy to
answer at the moment. She waited a lifetime. “Janeway to
Chakotay! Report!”

“Sorry to keep you waiting. There’s five ships chasing us,
they’re Kazon in configuration, but the people claim to be from
the M’narra Alliance.”

“M’narra Alliance? Do we have any information on them?”

“Negative,” she heard Ensign Kim answer this time. “They’re
closing in on us at Warp 6.”

“I’ll explain the rest when you get to the Bridge,” Chakotay
said, knowing nothing would keep her in the Science Lab if her
ship was in danger.

“Go to Red Alert,” she ordered as she practically ran for the
turbo-lift. Suddenly she was knocked off her feet by a hit to
the ship.

“Why didn’t you call me sooner?” Janeway shouted into her comm
badge.

“There was no time,” Chakotay replied, picking himself off the
floor, out of breath.

“Captain, the blast has caused several minor injuries and has
knocked the turbo-lifts off-line,” Tuvok informed him.

“You had better just stay put!” Chakotay advised.

“I’m coming to the Bridge!” She stated emphatically. I’ll
climb the access shaft the whole way if necessary! Just take
care of *my* ship. Janeway out.”

Kathryn managed to get the doors to the turbo-lift shaft open
with the manual overrides and began to climb the ___ decks to
the Bridge. She’d made it past two decks when she almost fell
off the ladder as the ship was rocked with another blast.

“Chakotay! What’s happening?” She called out as she accessed
her comm badge.

“We’ve taken a couple of more hits and the shields are down to
forty-eight percent,” He told her.

“Well execute some evasive maneuvers! Get us out of here!”

Chakotay wanted to yell back at her, but he knew now wasn’t the
time. “Paris!” He shouted at the Lieutenant instead, “Let’s
see some of that fancy flying you’re always bragging about!”

“Yessir!” Tom replied, overjoyed that he had been given free
reign for once. He knew he could surprise the M’narran’s with
a few Alpha Quadrant tricks, if just given the chance.

B’Elanna’s voice came over the comm line, “You’ve got Warp
3.45, but that’s all I can give you for now.”

“Good work, B’Elanna, keep at it.” Chakotay closed the channel
as the ship took another hit.

“Captain,” Tuvok’s calm voice stated, “the last hit did
substantial damage to deck 10, and there is a power conduit in
Jeffries Tube 10 A that is about to rupture. That conduit is
one of the main power sources for our weapons. Apparently the
M’narran’s know our vulnerabilities as well as our identity.”

“Send a repair crew to that Jefferies Tube,” Chakotay ordered,
retaking the Command chair.

“I’m at Deck 10,” Janeway said, “I can get to that Tube
before the repair crew, there’s a lot of debris here, I don’t
know if they’ll even get through once they arrive.” Kathryn
struggled through the charred, damaged deck and found the
Jefferies in question, but the hatch was sealed.

“Computer, open hatch, Jefferies Tube 10 A,” she ordered.

“Unable to comply. Safety protocols are in place.”

“Override, authorization Janeway Epsilon four.”

“Unable to comply. Commander Janeway does not have
authorization for Command code Epsilon four.”

Damnit! Chakotay still had the access codes! “Janeway to
Chakotay! I need you to turn the Command Codes back over to
me!”

“Kathryn, you can’t go in there! The tube is flooded with
Thoron Radiation and that conduit is about to rupture!” In his
concern he hadn’t realized he had used her name on the Bridge,
but it didn’t escape the notice of the rest of the Bridge
compliment.

“Which is why I have to seal it! Give me those Codes
*COMMANDER*! That’s an order!” He didn’t have to be on Deck
10 to see the look on her face that meant business.

Tuvok and said, “I would recommend that you comply, Commander.
Not only has she correctly accessed the situation, but she is
well within her rights to retake the Captaincy of this ship.”
Chakotay didn’t miss the veiled threat from the Vulcan. If he
didn’t give Kathryn back the Command Codes, Tuvok would relieve
him of duty. And if he did give her back her rank, he was
signing her death warrant, or at the very least she would have
Radiation poisoning. But he knew he had no real choice. She
was the Captain and if she chose to be reckless, sometimes he
had to let her be.

“Computer, transfer Command Codes and rank of `Captain’ back to
Janeway, Kathryn E., authorization Chakotay Beta six.”

“Confirmed,” the mechanical voice replied.

Back on Deck 10 Kathryn tried again to open the hatch.

“Unable to comply.”

She slammed her hands in frustration against the hatch. “WHY
THE HELL NOT?”

“Structural damage has occurred to the opening mechanism” She
knew manual methods wouldn’t work then, either. She was
running out of time!

“Harry! I need a site-to-site transport into that Jefferies
Tube!”

“Captain, I don’t know if I can, it’s such a confined area, and
with the ship under attack. . . .”

“Just do it Mr. Kim! I know you’ll do your best.”

“Yes Ma’am,” the nervous Ensign replied, checking and re-
checking his co-ordinates.

“Harry, keep a lock on her, and beam her directly to Sickbay
when she’s through,” Chakotay added.

“Only on *my* signal,” Kathryn emphasized. “Energize!”

She materialized inside the Tube, seconds later, to find it
filled with smoke. With the hatch sealed, any emanations from
the leaking conduit simply built up, until the air was so thick
she could hardly breathe. She found a tool kit just inside
what would have been the opening, and used the ion spanner to
repair the rupture. It was slow going with the small, hand-
held spanner, but she manage to seal it off, moments before
collapsing in a fit of coughing. She opened the comm line,

“Get me out of here Mr. Kim.”

*********

Chakotay relaxed slightly when Tuvok informed him that the
Captain had been beamed to Sickbay and seemed to be stable.
Focusing his attention on the Helm, he tried to follow the type
of maneuvers Tom was executing. Now that their weapons were
back on-line, he had changed his strategy from passive,
evasive moves to definite aggressive ones. He flew so close to
the first ship, that Chakotay thought they were going to crash
into it, then at the last minute he pulled up as Tuvok released
a volley of phaser blasts. So as not to lose his element of
surprise, Tom quickly repeated a variation of the move on the
next ship and Tuvok again fired Tom knew that by the time he
reached the third ship they would be on to them, so he flew
straight at them, then at the last minute dropped beneath the
Kazon ship. He came about almost instantly and Tuvok let go
another volley.

“All three direct hits!” Harry confirmed, with a kind of
surprised pride in his voice.

“The other two ships are breaking formation and retreating,”
Tuvok informed.

Chakotay stood and walked over to Tom’s chair. “Good work,
Paris! I guess your money is where your mouth is after all!”
He said, clapping the younger man on the shoulder. “What do
you call that?”

“It’s a technique they used to refer to as `barnstorming,'” he
said, reveling in the attention he was receiving.

“For once I’m glad you’re such a nut about the twentieth
century,” he said, still smiling, then added, “helmboy.”

“Nut?” Tom asked incredulously “aficionado, interested
observer maybe but `nut?'”

“Too bad you got caught your first time out,” Chakotay
continued to tease, “you might have been a valuable addition
to the Maquis after all.”

“Doctor to Commander Chakotay. I’ve stabilized the Captain and
she’s asking to see you.”

“I’ll be there as soon as we can get the turbo-lifts back on
line,” he looked at Tuvok.

“About thirty more minutes.”

“Did you hear that, Doctor?”

“Affirmative. I’ll try to get her to stay put that long,
although I’ll probably have to sedate her to get her to wait,”
he said pointedly, staring at his patient.

Chakotay understood what the Doctor was trying to say. Even
with Thoron Radiation poisoning, she would still do anything to
avoid being kept in Sickbay while her ship’s safety was still
in question. “Tell her the M’narra have broken off the attack
and I’ll fill her in as soon as I get there.”

*********

It was closer to an hour by the time Chakotay made it to
Sickbay, and when he arrived, he found that Kathryn was sitting
up, waiting for his appearance.

“What are you still doing up?” he admonished her.

“I tried to get her to rest,” the Doctor grumbled, “but you
know how she is.”

“Yes, I do,” he said, giving her a stern look.

“You would have done the same thing,” Kathryn answered, trying
to appear contrite.

“What *I* would or would not have done is hardly the point
here.”

“I wish *somebody* would get to the point,” the Doctor mumbled
as he deactivated himself.

Kathryn and Chakotay looked at each other and started to laugh.
“Ooo, don’t do that,” she said, holding her side. “It hurts
when I laugh.” Instantly concerned, Chakotay asked,

“Are you all right? What did the Doctor say?”

“I had some Radiation poisoning, and some damage from smoke
inhalation, but he say’s I’ll be fine in a couple of days.
So,” she said, straightening the hospital gown the Doctor had
placed on her, “think you’re up to hanging onto the Big Chair
for a couple more days?”

“Just try and pry me out of it.”

“So what happened up there? I never realized how frustrating
it is for the crew below decks, relying on us to let them know
what’s going on. All they get to hear is the call for Red
Alert and they have no idea what we’re up against. It’s no
wonder this ship lives on gossip!”

Chakotay told her what he knew of the situation. How the
M’narra showed up out of nowhere and just attacked.

“Does anyone have any theories? Why would these people have
Kazon ships, knowledge of *Voyager* and such an animosity
towards us?”

“I’m not sure about their hatred of us, but Harry and Seven
have uncovered evidence of a short-distance worm hole that
originates in Kazon space and ends here. It seems stable, so
either the Kazon or M’narra may claim it as theirs. Or it
could be that the Kazon ships came through by accident, and
were met by the M’narrans and were no match for them, and their
ships were confiscated by them, like they tried to do with us.
It’s probably how they found out so much about us. Tuvok’s
identified the ships as having belonged to the Kazon Nistrum,
which would have had detailed files on *Voyager,* both from
Seska and Maj Cullah.”

“She just keeps turning up like the proverbial bad penny,
doesn’t she? Are we ever going to be free from her
influence?”

“I some times wonder,” he said, feeling as if she somehow had
managed to haunt him still. Chakotay sat down next to her on
the bio-bed and continued his speculations.

“Like I said, we don’t know if the Kazon’s appearance here was
purposeful or accidental. They may have known about the worm
hole and did everything they could to prevent us from finding
it, knowing it circumvented Borg space, or maybe it was a
surprise to them as well.”

Kathryn thought about his speculations. What if they *had*
found the worm hole? Think of what could have been avoided if
they hadn’t encountered the Borg. No shaky deals with
unreliable partners. No falling out with Chakotay. But then
there would be no Seven of Nine either. Did the events balance
each other out? She didn’t know, and it was no use to think of
the “what ifs,” they were well past Borg space now.

“I guess it answers a few questions,” she said. “How’s the
ship?”

“Okay, thanks to you. It was an incredibly stupid, brave thing
to do, Kathryn.”

“All in a day’s work when you’re the Captain,” she smiled at
him.

*EPILOGUE*

Kathryn settled into her Command chair. It felt good for her
to be “home” again. Everything was back to proper order–
Chakotay was at her side, and even her personal life was
starting to fall into place. For the first time in years she
didn’t dread thinking about the past. It still held many
painful and uncomfortable memories for her, but she could at
least look at them now instead of trying to push them aside.

The Doctor had finally given her a clean bill of health after
she badgered him for nearly a week. She still had a bit of a
cough, but she already felt one hundred percent better just
being back on the Bridge. Chakotay leaned over and whispered,

“It’s good to have you back.”

“It’s good to be back,” she whispered in return.

“Ensign Myers has requested a meeting with you,” Chakotay
said.

Normally, she would have headed down to Science Lab One to meet
with her, but then she thought better of it. Remembering how
cut off she felt from the “real” action on the ship, she
thought maybe Alyssa would like to see the Bridge. She was
quite sure the woman had never been there, and she might enjoy
it.

“I’m a little reluctant to leave my chair so soon,” she told
him with a glint in her eye. “maybe I’ll invite her up here
instead.” Chakotay gave her a questioning glance, but let the
comment slip by. He guessed she was allowed to have a few
mysteries.

Fifteen minutes later Alyssa stood in the turbo-lift as the
doors opened onto the Bridge. It was bigger than she thought,
and she remained rooted to the spot, unable to move forward.
Knowing she must look like an idiot, she swallowed and stepped
off the lift. All the faces of senior staff turned to look at
her and she felt like she was going to faint. Most of the
Bridge crew either returned to their duties, or smiled slightly
at her, welcoming her to their domain, except for Tuvok, who
simply nodded. She remembered him from her days on the *Zola*,
and smiled tentatively at him.

Captain Janeway stood and greeted her, “Ensign Myers, thank
you for coming,” she addressed the young woman warmly. “Shall
we go to my Ready Room?” Kathryn lead the way as Alyssa
spotted her former Captain.

“Cap. . .Commander Chakotay,” she said with a nervous smile.
“It’s good to see you again Sir.”

“You too Ensign. Everything okay down in the Science
Department?”

“Oh just fine, Sir!” She answered enthusiastically. Gods, was
he ever that young?

“Alyssa?” Janeway said, trying to regain the Ensign’s
attention.

“Oh, right,” she said, embarrassed, a slight blush starting
to creep into her face.

Once the doors to the Ready Room were closed, Alyssa relaxed
just a little.

“Have a seat,” Kathryn offered. “What can I do for you?”

“Actually it’s what I can do for you,” she said, sitting in
the chair across from Janeway’s desk. She tried hard not to
look around, but found her eyes scanning the room. It spoke to
her of the woman she’d had the privilege of getting to know a
little better during the last month. Kathryn did her best to
hide her smile as she watched the young woman’s eyes wander
around the room.

“And what is that?” She prompted. Alyssa produced a PADD and
handed it to Kathryn.
She scanned the data and looked up in astonishment.

“You finished it! How did you do this so quickly?” Alyssa
shrugged her shoulders.

“I guess I made it priority.”

“But what about your own research?”

“I needed some time away from it. I had a million new ideas
last night,” she confessed, excited now to return to her own
work. “You were right, the pulsars do seem to be the initial
phase of massive compact halo objects. I’m just sorry I
didn’t recognize this data sooner!”

“Alyssa! You did a wonderful job! And it isn’t like this was a
life or death situation here! It was a personal interest of
mine that had sentimental value, and you took upon yourself to
finish on my behalf!” Kathryn leaned across her desk towards
the woman, an ironic, enigmatic smile on her face.

“Some times you just have to know when to forgive yourself.”

THE END

flint@ballcom.com

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