Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and all characters therein are the property of Americans who are not me. No infringement of copyright is intended.

This story is set approximately around Season 3-4, but no particular spoilers other than this happens before Thirty Days. Rating M/15 for mature themes. Thanks to Star Trek Voyager: Lower Decks for all factual/technical information pertaining to the layout of the USS Voyager, and Star Trek: Technobabble for the correct spelling of "Jefferies Tube".

FEEDING THE FURY

Epilogue

The console in the alcove beeped softly as B'Elanna adjusted the warp plasma flow. The few crewmembers on duty in the graveyard shift paid no attention as Chakotay entered with a datapad and went to her position, but a close observer would have noted the rigid tension in her posture as Chakotay ostensibly laid down the datapad and inclined his head as if they were having a quiet conversation.

For a moment neither spoke; then B'Elanna ground out, "It's over, Chakotay. It has to be…"

"I know…" his voice was soft with infinite regret but acceptance. "I don't think I've ever experienced such shame and self-disgust as I did on the Bridge when Tom told the entity I had honour and integrity. If Tom ever found out that seeing us together in the Hydroponics bay was the only hallucination…"

"It takes two to tango, Chakotay," B'Elanna reminded him with bitter self-recrimination, but then she looked up at him, her eyes sad and longing. "I do love Tom, and it's about time I started acting like it, instead of being constantly ruled by my fears of losing those I love and trying to pre-emptively distance myself from the anticipated pain. Tom deserves more than me keeping him at arm's length even while claiming to love him because of my irrational fears of what might happen; you deserve more than to just be my back-up bed-mate plan because I'm too afraid to risk giving my all to Tom…and I deserve more than to be just your substitute for Kathryn Janeway."

"I know…" he looked sorrowfully down at the deck plate, admitting bleakly, "I've been sticking my head in the sand, but I have to accept the fact that as long as we are Captain and First Officer in the Delta Quadrant, there'll never be anything more between us than that, at least not if we have any sense of personal responsibility and acceptance of moral obligation to get this crew safely home. I need to make a decision, one way or the other, instead of just avoiding…"

"Decision?"

"Whether to get over my feelings for…Kathryn…however long it takes and move on with my life with someone else, or to wait and hope and that we could have a future together if we get lucky enough to make it back to the Alpha Quadrant any time this decade."

B'Elanna raised her hand and laid it flat on his chest, feeling the sensation of his heart beating beneath her palm; it was an old gesture between them, poignantly familiar. "Chakotay, I do love you, and I think a part of me will always be in love with you. But our time passed before we ever encountered Voyager. We would never have lasted in the long term and we both know it – we knew when we ended our affair the first time around; eventually you would have despised my volatility and I would have hated your placidity. I love Tom in a way I've never felt about anyone and nothing is more important to me than his happiness."

Chakotay lifted his hand and gently laid it over her own, brushing her knuckles with the pad of his thumb. "I feel the same way about…her…even if all I can ever be is her second-in-command, then it's worth it to make her happy – and keep her safe as much as I'm able."

They were temporarily alone and unobserved; swiftly Chakotay and B'Elanna's lips met in a passionately desperate kiss, before they each stepped away from each other. Chakotay picked up the datapad and left engineering superficially as calmly as he'd entered it while B'Elanna continued to work resolutely at the console, and nobody was close enough to hear the way her breath hitched on soft sobs.

Almost.

Pain flared in his hand and Harry realised he was gripping the manifold spanner so hard it was digging deep grooves into his flesh. Right now he was never so regretful that he had always heeded his mother's warnings against procrastination and had decided to check the fluctuations in the plasma relays tonight instead of tomorrow morning; Ensign Eager strikes again.

He lay absolutely still for several moments after the soft rustlings below had disappeared. Only then did he begin to ease his way back along the Jefferies Tube, moving with a fraction of normal speed to ensure he made no noise. When he got to a junction he stopped, addressing to himself the question of what was he going to do?

The immediate and certain answer that came back from his Id was that Tom Paris must never, ever know. In common with certain personality types of attractive men who had had a lot of women as paramours, when he finally had met the woman of his dreams, Tom hadn't just fallen hard so much as wildly plummeted. The sheer strength of his feelings towards B'Elanna were of an almost frightening intensity. Should Tom ever learn about B'Elanna and Chakotay's betrayal his devastation would be total, and it would precipitate a wild spiral of self-destructive behaviour that nothing and nobody would ever be able to pull him out of as Janeway, Harry and B'Elanna had managed to do when the careless, obdurate ex-convict swaggered onto Voyager hiding his hurt behind a devil-may-care façade of insouciant indifference.

By the same token, neither could anyone else know. The Maquis had been part of the crew long enough now that most people had all but forgotten they were not the original personnel in their positions, but if this were to become known, it would tear the crew apart psychologically; Chakotay and B'Elanna would be reviled and viewed with contempt instead of being respected and admired. The crew's chances of surviving to make it home to the Alpha Quadrant would go into freefall if they had to work under a First Officer and Chief Engineer that they despised. Captain Janeway herself would never publicly treat them any differently, but in private her respect and admiration for both of her officers would be destroyed and any reciprocal romantic attachment she might presently feel for Chakotay would be annihilated never to be rekindled.

Besides, he himself was in no position to be throwing stones in this particular glasshouse. Although he'd loved Libby he'd been tempted to cheat on her once; as the overcrowded transport shuttle had pulled away leaving him on the platform, all the guilt about what he'd been about to do had come crashing down on him, but had it not been for that fluke preventing his treachery, he would have made his illicit rendezvous. He was not sufficiently without his own sin to be able to cast the first stone at B'Elanna and Chakotay. They weren't saints, but by the same token, they weren't evil incarnate either. Their illicit affair was a mistake that it was obvious both deeply regretted and were shamed by, and self-righteously exposing them to the hatred, contempt and scorn of everyone would only destroy a lot of people's lives and chances of happiness.

Making his decision, Harry began to shuffle along again. Fortunately, as he had discerned at a very young age, there were distinct advantages to being him. All his life he had found that being 'good old Harry' was a distinct plus; few had any inkling of the secrets he knew and kept behind his open, cheerful, innocent face. It was time for 'good old Harry' to add another secret to that mental compartment marked THIS NEVER HAPPENED: ACCESS DENIED.

© 2005, Catherine D. Stewart

NB: this has been mentioned to me as an "error" so I will explain; the customary form of address to a Lieutenant was/is "Mr" as well as by military rank of "Lt" (similarly medical doctors who reach the heady heights of being a surgeon were/are addressed by the honorific "Mr" instead of "Dr"). I have no idea why, but as far as military authenticity goes, there was nothing erroneous in Captain Janeway et al referring to Tom (or anyone of Lieutenant rank) interchangeably as "Lt Paris" and "Mr Paris" as they did in episodes throughout the series.