Aftermath

Aftermath
by VoyWriter

This is a continuation of Basics II.
disclaimer: Paramount holds all rights to name and characters.
Please feel free to distribute this electronically intact and without revision.
Permission from the author is required to include it in any anthology or post it on
a web page.
email comments to VoyWriter@aol.com

Chakotay pulled the white sheet up over Seska’s still form, his eyes offering a
silent benediction. The cloth was white, antiseptic, sterile. Seska would have
found it ironic that her traitor’s body was clothed in white for its final rest. She
would have laughed a dark rich laugh.
He shook his head. Had they really been compatriots in the Maquis? Had they
really been lovers? Who was she then? How had she come to this? The questions
were haunting.
Chakotay felt a gentle hand touch his back and he turned away from the table,
glad for the distraction.
“I’m sorry.” Janeway’s soft voice carried both condolence and apology. She had
been hesitant to intrude on Chakotay’s private grief, but she did not want him to
harbor any blame for Seska’s death and she did not want him to grieve alone.
“I know this is difficult for you,” she told him, her hand still warm on his back. “If
there is anything I can do…” Her voice trailed off.
She had no love for Seska and Chakotay knew that, but her regret that another life
had been lost was sincere and her concern for him was a welcome balm.
Chakotay’s dark gaze flickered back to the table and then met Janeway’s
comforting one. “I was just wondering how she came to this,” he told her. “We
are all far from home, but Seska more than most of us, because she was never
really one of us. I wonder what that felt like – to be out here, alone.”
“You couldn’t have known she was a Cardassian,” Janeway offered, though she
knew it was small consolation.
“I always knew she was different,” Chakotay remembered. “From the first day she
came to the Maquis, she always stood out.”
He reached out and touched the sheet. Who else would remember her now?
Remember the Seska that was – before. Her son – Cullah’s son – Chakotay knew
now, would not remember his mother. And Cullah had only known an angry,
embittered Seska. The Starfleet crew viewed her as a spy. The Maquis as a traitor.
But there was more, and he had seen it. It was to him to carry her spirit and share
what he knew of her.
He turned to face Janeway, reached out and brushed a stray wisp of hair from her
face. It was an instinctive gesture. She did not object.
“It would help me to tell you about her,” Chakotay told her. “If you feel you could
listen.”
Janeway smiled softly. “If it would help… We haven’t had a chance to really talk
since New Earth,” she said, and just the words sent forth a flood of memories so
sweet and strong that Chakotay could smell the rustling leaves of the planet as if
the wind still swept around them.
“I’ll buy you a cup of coffee,'” he offered.
“I have some of Neelix’s sweet tea in my quarters,” she countered.
Chakotay searched her eyes and then nodded. “All right,” he said, and he turned
away from Seska one final time.

Chakotay accepted the glass of cool sweet tea from Janeway, glancing about her
quarters as he waited for her to pour her own cup. The room was very much like
her – cool and efficient, everything in its place, but with an undercurrent of
passion reflected in personal photos, books and memorabilia.
His eye caught one particular photo and he leaned over the low table to study it.
Janeway sat in the grass with a dark handsome man and a big lolling dog. She
looked relaxed and happy. He knew it was a photo of her with Mark, her lover on
Earth, taken shortly before Voyager left on its mission to the badlands.
“I haven’t had the heart to put that away,” Janeway said, picking up the picture
and gazing fondly at the memory. “Maybe it’s time.”
Chakotay shook his head. “They are a part of who you are. It’s important not to
forget.”
“But they’re not a part of my life today,” she said, setting the frame firmly back on
the table. “And as much as I might mourn and regret, I also need to accept it and
get on.” She smiled softly. “I remember someone telling me not so long ago that
it was time to move on,” she said and then before he could answer, she waved her
hand at the cushioned couch along the wall and invited Chakotay to sit. “Please.”
He settled back on one end of the couch. Janeway took the other. “Tell me about
Seska,” she said.
Chakotay took a sip of the tea. It was very sweet and cool, like Thai iced tea he
had tasted on earth during his days at Starfleet Academy. It drew him back.
“Seska just seemed to appear one day,” he began. “Maybe that should have been
my warning – but we were used to mercenaries coming and going. A few days of
battle and they were off to pay debts, or gamble or find some new cause. Besides,
we all thought Seska was Bajoran and she claimed she wanted to fight the good
fight with us – to avenge what had been done to her people by the Cardassians.
We weren’t about to turn down volunteers, especially committed ones.”
“You said she simply appeared,” Janeway commented. “Where? On your ship?”
Chakotay shook his head. “No. We had raided a Cardassian ammo dump and
were trying to get out of the zone and return to our ship when Seska came out of
the darkness. Hell, B’Elanna almost killed her, but her weapon froze. She knew
the way out of the dump and got us back to our ship and out of the system. She
was smart, savvy. Her loyalty was never in question.”
“There would have been no reason to doubt her,” Janeway agreed. “I would have
accepted her myself under those circumstance.”
“She knew how to find us, too,” Chakotay continued. “And that wasn’t
necessarily that easy. Starfleet kept a close watch. We always had to hide and on
occasion even move our base,” he said pointedly.
“You were operating in violation of Federation treaties,” Janeway reminded him.
“Federation treaties – not our treaties,” Chakotay responded, and then he shook his
head. “I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this, Captain.”
“Are we back to that?” she asked with a hint of a smile. “It was Kathryn not so
long ago.”
She remembered Chakotay’s grin on New Earth when she had suggested he call
her Kathryn. He’d been surprised and had said he would need some time to get
used to it. When he finally did, and spoke her name tens of times a day, she had
grown to look forward to the sound of it. Hearing it gave her a part of her old life
back, reminded her she was more than Captain. She was still woman, daughter,
friend…roles she missed. Just as she missed their easy relationship on New Earth.
Chakotay met Janeway’s gaze and found it frank and open – an invitation to
return to the intimacy and freedom they had so briefly enjoyed. It warmed him,
while at the same time seemed like a promise she could not keep. He sighed and
studied his tea.
There would be different rules on the ship. There had to be. Here she was
Captain; he, her First Officer. There were defined roles. And duties. And
proprieties to be observed.
“It’s going to more complicated here,” he warned, glancing up again.
“Maybe,” she responded, tucking her legs neatly beneath her and curling further
into the couch. “And maybe it’s only our perceptions and surroundings that have
changed. Not us.”
Chakotay set his tea glass aside and stood, crossing the room and pacing back to
the observation window, behind Janeway. He stared out into the blackness of
space and took a deep breath. Words from his father touched him. “You cannot
hold onto the past while reaching for the future, Chakotay. No one has a reach
that long.” It was time to let go.
“I thought once that I loved her ,” Chakotay murmured. “Seska,” he clarified, as if
any clarification were needed.
Janeway allowed him his privacy. She did not turn to face him. “I knew you were
lovers.”
“In the Maquis we lived life very much on the edge. Our emotions were very near
the surface. We never knew from one day to the next if we would live or die,” he
told her, speaking quickly and passionately as he paced back to within her view
and then sat on the edge of the low table facing her. “There had to be some way to
feel alive through it all.”
“You don’t…” Janeway started to say he didn’t need to justify his actions to her,
and then she realized suddenly that he needed to explain. It was a way to sort
things out. It was grieving. It was closure. He was asking her help to move on.
Trusting her to help him. And she would.
“Tell me about your relationship,” Janeway asked. She reached her hand out and
touched his arm, resting her hand there. “Tell me what you loved about her.”

Chakotay glanced down at her hand, warm on his arm, offering acceptance
without judgment. Wasn’t that something he had been searching for his whole
life? It was amazing to find it here and now – thousands of light years from home
in a place he never expected to be, living a life he could not have guessed at.
“You have a generous spirit, Kathryn,” he told her. “Thank you.” And he rested
his hand over hers for a moment before standing and walking to the other end of
the couch. He perched on the edge, hands dangling loosely between his knees.
His mind drew back to those earlier days in the Maquis. In some ways very easy
days. Fight, Regroup. Flee. Fight again. It was very basic living spiked with the
edginess that comes from the horror of taking another’s life and the anticipation
that you would lose your own. Trust of your own compatriots and yourself was all
there was to keep you going – that and the knowledge that you were doing the
right thing, fighting the good fight. It had kept Chakotay going and had almost
been enough, but not quite.
He had taken up his father’s cause, but it was never really his own. Oh, he
believed in the principles they were fighting for, and he knew he honored his
father’s memory. He was a good Commander, sharp and respected. He brought his
people home, did his job – but the passion was never quite there. And then Seska
joined them.
“Seska was always angry,” Chakotay remembered. “But then so was I. Maybe
that’s what drew us together. The second week she was with us, we had one hell
of a fight.
Janeway could well imagine – Chakotay’s quietly intense temper up against
Seska’s quick flashing anger. Janeway had witnessed their disagreement only a
couple of times on Voyager, but the intensity had been palpable despite
Chakotay’s efforts at control. Unspent emotions, Janeway had always thought,
from a relationship Seska did not want to see come to a close and Chakotay was
somehow hesitant to end. Seska had been a point on a compass which no longer
directed him home, but she had been a connecting link nonetheless.
“She knew just how to get me to react,” Chakotay continued. “I used to think she
deliberately baited me, just to be noticed.”
“To get closer to what you knew?” Janeway suggested.
He grinned. “I thought it was to get closer to me,” he said with a shake of his
head, “but you’re probably right. Add that to the list with naiveté.”
Janeway waved a hand, dismissing the self-depreciation. “What did you fight
about?”
“The command structure of the resistance cell. There were very good people
working with me. I had no problem delegating some very important tasks to them.
Seska did not agree. She felt that it was a mistake to let that authority go. It might
weaken my position and cause the others to follow directions differently than
planned. She saw it as a control and strategy issue.”
“Were you that well organized?” Janeway asked, surprised.
She had somehow pictured the Maquis as a very loosely connected group that
rather haphazardly challenged Federation rule. She realized now how foolish that
notion had been. The reports she’d read of the border skirmishes should have
corrected that view. And what Tuvok had told her of his brief time with the
Maquis underscored that as well. Her security officer had great respect for
Maquis values and spoke highly of their organization and efforts despite
borrowed ships and stolen supplies.
It was always a mistake to underestimate the enemy – if that’s what the Maquis
ever really were. She had even come to question that. Taken as individuals, the
people were not enemies. Her gaze sought Chakotay. Certainly not this man.
From the moment he accepted the post as First Officer he had acted with honor
and dignity; the welfare of Voyager, the ship’s crew and it’s Captain – especially
it’s Captain – his first priority. The insight only added to her respect.

” Tell me about how you were organized,” she asked, determined to learn more
about and understand this somewhat mysterious part of Chakotay’s life, if nothing
else for what she would learn about him.
“It wasn’t like the Starfleet Command structure, but there was a system ,” he told
her, spreading his hands to indicate there was a scope of authority. “Each cell had
a Commander. Some ruled with an iron hand, but most of us found that
impractical given the nature of the people who joined the Maquis.”
“I imagine that taking orders was not a strength,” Janeway commented,
swallowing the last of her tea. She unfolded her cramped legs and stretched them
out with a grateful sigh.
“Surprisingly taking orders was not a problem,” Chakotay countered. “It was
finding people willing to give them. That’s how Seska was different. She wanted
to command, wanted the power – or at least to be near it. On the other hand, I felt
that everyone had an investment in what we were doing and that the best way to
insure their continued participation was to make them a part of the decision
making process.”
“And that’s where you disagreed?”
He nodded. “Thinking back, I realize it would have been more difficult for her to
get the information she needed if decisions were not made centrally, but at the
time, it seemed as if she were simply concerned with maintaining control and
keeping operations efficient”
“She was an excellent organizer,” he offered as an aside. “In her first few days she
set up a system for logging supplies and tracking hand weapons that was better
than anything I had come up with. I quickly began to trust her with plans and
agendas because I saw she could carry them out. And I relied on her quite heavily
to keep the cadre organized. In a way she was like my First Officer.”
“Still, when I insisted on delegating some of my authority to others, she blew up.
Even though she had only been with us a short time, she insisted it was a decision
I would come to regret. She was adamant. She may even have had a point, but she
made the mistake of challenging me before the cadre. She suggested I was
unwilling to take responsibility for life and death decisions and wanted to leave
the dirty work to others. Dissension was our constant enemy and she knew it, yet
she was not above using it. There were some lousy decisions to make, and I had
delegated some of them. Maybe that was a mistake,” he shrugged. “You know, I
didn’t object to her viewpoint, just the way she presented it..” He shook his head
at the memory. It was the closest to a riot he had witnessed, and that among
people who were supposed to be fighting for a common cause. Power was an
awesome thing.
Chakotay continued. “Above anything else, we needed unity and her deliberate
attempt to cause dissension in the cell simply could not be tolerated. I guess she
figured she’d win either way – I’d keep the control and she’d stay on the inside of
the information loop, or the cell would fall apart.”
“But neither happened,” Janeway surmised.
“Both almost did, but no, neither happened.” He smiled. “If you think you’ve
witnessed my temper here on Voyager, you’d be surprised to have seen it that
night.”
Janeway returned the smile. He had inflicted his temper on her only a handful of
times, always in private, always with her permission. Still, she knew it could be
formidable.
“So how did you settle it?” she wondered.

“We didn’t. At least not then. Seska refused to back down and I couldn’t. She
stormed out of the meeting – alone. A few hours later after I cooled down and
thought she had, I sought her out. She was unwavering in her opinion, still
furious. We said some very ugly things. She stayed with the cell, but we were at
odds for a long time after that.”
“But you obviously did get together,” Janeway observed as she stood and picked
up her glass. “More tea?”
Chakotay shook his head. “Actually, I think I am getting hungry. When did we
last eat?”
“A real meal?” Janeway shook her head. “Too long ago. How about if we splurge
and use up some replicator rations? I think we’ve earned it.”
“Only if you let me cook,” he countered, rising and crossing to the replicator in
the wall of Janeway’s quarters.
“Deal,” she agreed with a nod. “I’ll pour more tea. Neelix left me a full container
in thermal stasis.”

Janeway and Chakotay sat opposite each other at her desk, using it as a
make-shift dinner table. A still steaming iron pot of Nabiyaki Udon was nearly
empty, just the last of the noodles and broth in the bottom.
“This was a surprise,” Janeway commented, setting her chopsticks aside and
dabbing at her mouth with her napkin. “But delicious.”
“My sponsor at the Academy was Captain Hikaru Sulu,” Chakotay explained. “I
shared a few traditional meals with him when assignments brought him back to
Earth. This one became a favorite. I programmed it into the replicator several
months ago.”
They companionably finished their tea, reminiscing a bit about favorite foods,
famous and infamous Academy professors, and debating which class was the
toughest – Federation law without question – and then they cleared their dishes
and returned to the couch, retaking their seats at each end.
Janeway stretched her legs out to reach the low table and settled back
comfortably against the cushions, her hands wrapped around a cup of cinnamon
hazelnut cappuccino – her contribution to the meal.
She felt comfortably lazy. It reminded her of the evenings on New Earth when she
had studied her test results, or urged her tomato seedlings to sprout while
Chakotay kept himself busy with one activity or another – usually something on
her behalf. The calm that had claimed him there had stayed with him on their
return.
“You seem to have made a sort of peace with yourself,” she observed. “Can you
do the same with Seska?”
“I’m not sure. I wish it weren’t so complicated. Maquis lives were lost because of
her…”
“And Starfleet lives,” Janeway added. Might as well be honest, put it all out on
the table.
“And Starfleet lives.”
“And you feel responsible for that.”
“Aren’t I?” he asked rhetorically.
Janeway shook her head. “She was drawn to power like a moth to a flame. First
you, then Cullah. Who knows who before that – maybe whoever it was on
Cardassia that sent her to the Maquis.”
Chakotay set his mug on the table top to cool. “Not an attractive thought. I don’t
much like the company.”
“I remember you telling me that Seska once offered to help you take over
Voyager,” Janeway said. “What do you think she had to gain by that?”
“She had no love for the Federation.”
“Nor for the Maquis, but she never attempted to take you over, I presume.”
“No.”
“If you have been back in command, in command of Voyager, she would have
had power again, or access to it through you.”
“Our relationship was over long ago.”
“Your relationship,” Janeway emphasized the first word. “But I get the
impression Seska never let go.”
Chakotay remembered Seska coming to his quarters, offering herself…
“My point is, she manipulated you,” Janeway sat forward to make her point. “She
infiltrated your Command, she made herself a part of your life, she used your
sense of honor to hold you and then sought her revenge when you rejected her.
And you still feel guilty – why?”
“It wasn’t quite that one-sided, Kathryn,” he challenged. “I was a willing
participant in our relationship. I can’t absolve myself of blame simply because I
was unaware of her complicity. The point is, I should have been. The fact she
made a fool of me personally is damned embarrassing, but it’s not the key issue. I
blindly trusted her. Given more time, she could have destroyed everything we had
gained, all that my father’s people and the Maquis had accomplished. It’s ironic,
but being brought here by the array was probably good fortune for my people.”
“It was their loss, but Voyager’s gain in your case, Chakotay,” Janeway said
frankly. “As for Seska, I agree. It is fortunate she can no longer interfere.” She sat
back, a frown creasing her forehead. She hadn’t mean to sound so strident. “I’m
sorry. You were going to tell me how you ended up together.”
He nodded and picked up his mug, blowing gently on the hot liquid and then
taking a tentative sip. The flavoring was soft and subtle. Now there were two
words he would never use to describe Seska. He thought back to the night they
had become lovers.

It had been one lousy day. They had lost their third ship in seven days – not
through any negligence, but simply because it couldn’t hold up to the pounding
the Cardassian warships had inflicted upon it. With B’lanna’s help, Chakotay had
managed to land at their base site more or less intact, but the ship wouldn’t go up
again, no matter how good an engineer B’lanna Torres had proven herself. They
had no shipyard. That meant they couldn’t rebuild, only repair, and this ship was
beyond that. B’lanna herself had given him the sorry news.
Chakotay was frustrated. They were supposed to be doing some good here, but it
seemed as if they spent most of their time procuring supplies, setting up elaborate
traps to capture new ships, making repairs or figuring out what in the hell to do
next. Whoever said fighting for your freedom was romantic must have been an
author, not an activist.
He unclipped his belt and tossed it on the table in what passed for his quarters. A
cot, table and chair made up the bulk of the furniture. He had always traveled
light and his few personal possessions plus a couple of tunics and pants were
neatly stacked in a case at the end of the bed.
Rubbing the back of his neck, he dropped into the chair and just sat, reorienting
himself, trying to redirect his anger to some more useful purpose. There was
noise in the corridor, nothing out of the ordinary, but today it distracted him. He
felt the ground rumble as someone else’s ship took off. It was as if he was attuned
to everything and everyone save himself. If only he could spend a few hours back
on his homeworld, just enough time to reaclimate and seek his spirit guide, he felt
he might renew himself.
“Where were you when this was happening?” Janeway interrupted. She was
fascinated to be getting a glimpse of this very different side of the man and
wanted the picture to be complete.
“We set up bases on several of the moons in the system, plus Bajor and Cardassia
itself. Except for those two, most of us tried to stay off the border worlds because
our activities drew too much attention. I think I went for months without seeing a
single green plant or naturally running water. We used old ships and container
freighters as the basecamps. If we had to leave in a hurry, we could abandon them
without any great loss.”
“Did that happen often?”
“Actually, you’d be surprised at how infrequently it happened.” Chakotay rose and
picked up his now empty cup, holding it out toward Janeway. “More?” he asked
her.
She shook her head. She’d had enough coffee. What she really felt like was a
brandy, a real one, and in tea. She debated, but only for a moment before making
the suggestion. She was more or less off duty – at least until Voyager was repaired
and that would take hours. Harry and B’lanna had advised that fixing the damage
from the phaser overload alone would take half the night
“Would you like one?” she asked Chakotay as she stood and crossed the room,
tugging open a small cushioned cupboard in the wall where she kept the brandy
along with a bottle of Romulan ale a friend had given her as a bon voyage gift.
She’d forgotten about it. “I have Romulan ale also. I never cared for it. A
classmate gave it to me years ago. I suppose it’s well aged.”
Chakotay smiled. He knew what well-aged meant when it came to Romulan ale.
“No thanks,” he demurred. “And, brandy’s not my drink, but I’ll join you with the
tea,” he said, calling up two mugs from the replicator.

“How did you get more ships?” Janeway wondered. “We kept pretty close tabs on
Starfleet vessels, but I know the last ship you took into the badlands was one of
ours.”
“That ship was purchased,” he told her, taking his tea back to the couch. “There
are always people willing to deal in arms and craft. And we had a few friends in
high places who secretly questioned the treaty and helped us out when they could.
A lot of them were simply procured. Many were Cardassian short distance ships
that we took out, picked up and repaired, or stole from their storage sites. That
was how we got our next ship,” he told her as she settled in across from him once
again. “And that’s when Seska and I finally got together.”

He had given up trying to rest or relax when B’lanna stormed into his quarters
with her usual disregard for his privacy, foregoing knocking or even calling out.
He was still sitting in the chair, but he had cleaned up and changed his clothes
and was chewing on a ration pack.
“We’ve got a lead on a Cardassian storage site on the Pellan moon,” she said
excitedly. “I’ve found you a runabout that should make it that far – doesn’t have to
come back. There are at least three small warships plus a couple of Bajoran ships
they must have decided to keep for some reason. The warships are pretty beat up,
but the Bajoran ships are in good shape. You should be able to get us one of
those.”
Chakotay tossed the rest of his ration pack on his cot and grabbed up his belt and
jacket. “I presume you heard this from some reliable source?” he questioned
B’lanna as they headed out of his room and down the corridor of the old freighter.
She nodded. “One of our guys spotted it during a parts run. It’s legit.”
“I’ll need a second chair,” he told her. “Get your gear.”
B’lanna shook her head. “Can’t. I want to pull the coprocessor from our last ship
before it’s cannibalized by someone else. We may need it.”
Torres stopped and grabbed his arm. “Take Seska. She’s Bajoran. Who better to
steal a Bajoran ship. Besides, she’s getting on my nerves. Every time I turn around
she’s there. I need some time to get some work done. This gets her out of my
way.”
“She’s only trying to learn, B’lanna,” Chakotay told the engineer with a sigh. “You
should try to be more patient.”
“Patient?” B’lanna whirled on him. “You may have been able to forgive her for
nearly destroying this unit, but I haven’t.”
“She was only trying to help. It was embarrassing when I turned her suggestion
down in front of everyone.”
“Are you really that naive?”
“Enough!” Chakotay told her firmly. He had his limits even with Torres. “Have
her meet me at the runabout. I’m going to get us a couple of phaser rifles.”

Janeway leaned over to touch Chakotay’s sleeve and pause his story. “So you had
at least resolved your conflict over the meeting incident?”
She had curled her legs up beneath her, her boots beside the couch, her brandied
tea in hand. She found the story fascinating and realized she had missed
Chakotay’s soft voice and the way he wove words. She had spent many evenings
listening to him tell traditional tales of his people when they were on New Earth.
She felt that hearing them had given her a link to the man, just as hearing about
his time in the Maquis brought them more commonality, tying old lives to new.
Chakotay stood and paced about – more to stretch his legs than from restlessness.
He was comfortable with Kathryn now, another holdover from New Earth and
one that seemed to come back easily, just as slipping out of the Command
structure for the evening.
“Seska came to me and apologized,” Chakotay continued as he placed his empty
tea mug on the counter by the replicator and walked back to the observation
window. ” I believed her when she said she was only try to do what was best for
the group. I had no reason not to trust he,” he offered without apology. “Many of
the Maquis were hotheaded and opinionated, B’lanna included. We were under
constant pressure. It was inevitable.”
“Yet you seemed to maintain a balance.”
“For the most part,” he nodded. “But I was fortunate to have years of practice,
thanks to my father and his training, and I was used to a disciplined life from
Starfleet. Seska had endured years in the camps – or I thought she had. I couldn’t
expect her to have the same grounding. It doesn’t make sense apply the same
standards to everyone.”
Janeway leaned back against the cushions as she considered his words and her
shoulder brushed Chakotay’s hand where it rested on the top of the couch. They
both pulled away.
“Sorry,” Chakotay apologized for the overreaction.
“We really need to figure this out,” Janeway told him with a bemused shake of
her head. “This is a small ship with close quarters.”
“It’s not New Earth,” Chakotay replied. “We don’t have the same liberties.”
“True,” she conceded. “But it is our home and will be for some time to come. We
both need to feel comfortable here.”
“I’m not uncomfortable,” Chakotay insisted. “Perhaps just a little uncertain.”
“Of?”
He considered. “Of where Captain Janeway ends and Kathryn Janeway begins.”
“If you can figure that out, let me know,” she teased dryly. “From what I can tell,
it’s a package – just like Commander Chakotay and Maquis Captain Chakotay.”
Chakotay grinned. “Point taken,” he nodded. “I’ll try not to make the distinction
any more than necessary. I do respect you as a Captain, Kathryn, and value you as
a friend,” he said earnestly.
“I’m glad we’ve been able to come to this,” she countered with equal sincerity.
“There was a time I wondered if we’d be more than civil to one another the entire
70 years of the voyage home.”
“A daunting thought.” He reclaimed his seat on the couch. “It would have made a
very long journey even longer.”
“Is this helping?” she wondered. “Talking about Seska. Are you finding any sort
of closure?”
He nodded. “I can’t say it’s exorcising all the old ghosts, but yes, it’s helping me to
put things in perspective. I appreciate you listening. I know you had no love or
Seska or the Maquis.”
“You relationship with Seska always seemed a bit out of character ,” she said by
way of a reply. “I’ve wondered what brought you together – and marveled when
you continued to stand behind her, even now to some extent.”
“Honor among thieves?” he grinned in self-reproach, at the same time offering a
shrug. The more he talked about it, the more he wondered himself.
Janeway ignored the remark. “Tell me about the run you made to the Cardassian
ship site.”

The runabout that B’lanna had found them wasn’t quite as good as she described,
and that hadn’t been too good to begin with. Never take a ship that should make it
somewhere and won’t make it back. Chakotay cursed as the small craft shuddered
and the stabilizers went out for the fifth time. He should have known better.
“Find someplace for us to go down,” he shouted at Seska over the horns and
alarms as he frantically rerouted systems. “We’re just a few dead processors away
from losing control here.”
“We’re almost at Cardassia,” Seska came back.
“No good,” Chakotay shook his head. “We crash there and we draw all kinds of
the wrong attention. Check out the moons.”
“They won’t work. Too small and hostile.”
“Dammit!,” he swore through clenched teeth and then he pounded a fist on the
control panel as the stabilizers flickered a sixth time. “All right. Cardassia,” he
agreed, cursing the demon gods who refused to give him one lousy break in the
whole lousy day. “Find us someplace soft. I’m going to cut the engines when we
break the atmosphere.”
“If the Cardassians don’t see us coming, we could send a fleet though,” he
muttered, working the controls.
However Seska managed it, there was a sandy landing site and no Cardassian
interference with their ship as they came down. She’d been handling comm.
Chakotay wondered now if she hadn’t sent some message or known a code that
got them though. Still, no one had come after them, so it was more a puzzle than
anything. Maybe her assignment had just been to infiltrate.
By the time they landed, the runabout was useful as shelter, little more. Chakotay
had shut down the power and it was never going to come back on, at least not
more than interior lights and a few useless systems. This part of Cardassia was
mercilessly hot and the shell heated up quickly, even in the late day sun.
They packed what gear they would need and could carry and headed out,
following the sandy path from the clearing into a thick stand of humid forest.
Their only hope to get back was to get to the storage site and take one of the
Bajoran ships. After two hours of hiking with heavy packs in 90 degree heat, both
were wet with heat and tiring quickly. Chakotay estimated 6 more hours to the
perimeter of the ship site. If they could rest, they could do it in the cool of the
night. He stopped and took stock of their location. It wasn’t promising.
“Let’s go a little further and then call a halt until it’s cooler,” he breathed. “Maybe
we’ll find someplace we can rest.”
As it turned out, what they found was a cliff, and below that a valley would take 2
days to cross, if they weren’t killed going down. It wasn’t that far to the bottom,
but it was steep. Going back meant going the wrong direction. Going around
didn’t seem to be an option, the long cut sliced for hundreds of meters.
“We’ll have to go across,” he determined.
“On what?” Seska crossed her arms tightly over her chest. “Unless you have
wings, we can’t make it over there,” she retorted.
Chakotay pointed. “Look down there,” he told her. “See the cut in the rocks? I
think we can get enough footing. But we’re going to have to go before dark or it
will be too dangerous.”
It turned out to be dangerous even in the light. The rocks were jagged and
merciless on clothing and skin. Chakotay wrapped his hands in strips torn from
his tunic as he chose the path and pointed Seska away from the worst of the razor
sharp outcroppings. It took three hours to reach the bottom. It should have taken
one, but speed was impossible.
A small overhang and shallow cave at the bottom of the cliff afforded them
enough shelter and privacy to make camp and there was brush at the shrub line
that could be used for kindling. Seska organized the packs while Chakotay set up
a ring of stones and used his phaser to start a fire. It was in the light of that blaze
that she saw his hands when he tried to work the blood-soaked strips of cloth
away from them.

Chakotay turned his palms up and scanned his hands. He could still see faint
scars. Not the only scars his time with Seska had left.
“Let me see,” Janeway insisted, and obediently he held out his hands. She took
them in her own and traced the fading white lines that creased his palms. He
pulled slowly them back, meeting her even gaze and then looking away.
“Seska had her own injuries,” Chakotay continued. “They weren’t quite as bad as
my hands, but her legs and feet were cut up. Her boots were sliced open and she
had a nasty cut on her ankle. We took turns doctoring one another as best we
could, then ate a ration pack and made up our pallets to sleep.”
He paused. “It was strange, though. Even though we were both exhausted, neither
of us could sleep. We lay there apart in the dark – injured and alone. It just
seemed natural to pull her into my arms. We both needed the contact. We didn’t
actually make love that night, but I always felt it was the night we first became
lovers. We spent three more days getting to the ship and another two getting back
to base camp. From then on we shared quarters.”
“You were both very vulnerable – tired, injured, alone on a hostile planet,
dependent on one another for survival…” Janeway said.
“I’m not looking for excuses,” he insisted.
“I’m not giving them. It was a natural reaction and from what you describe, I
think you’re right – you may have seen a Seska that none of the rest of us did.”
“Now I’m not so sure,” he said, a faint doubting smile on his lips. “It seems I can
attribute motive to nearly everything she did.”
“Give yourself a little credit, Chakotay,” Janeway challenged. “There must have
been other ways of infiltrating and getting information. You have some very
special qualities, maybe even Seska could see that.”
They sat in silence a moment, unsettled, but not uncomfortable, and then
Chakotay rose. “I think we’ve had a long enough day. Thank you for listening.”
Janeway walked him to the door of her quarters. They stopped short of activating
the slide panel. “I’m here if you ever need to talk,” she told him, pressing her palm
against his chest.
He touched one finger to her jaw. “I am always here for you, Kathryn,” he replied
in his low soft voice. “You just need to ask.”
She nodded. “I’ll remember that. Good night.” She stepped forward and activated
the door.

finis

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