There are Little Things Which go Unnoticed
Summary: Kathryn's husband makes a few observations of his wife whilst she dances with another man. (I want to say JC, but as always: it's complicated).
A/N: This is just a little one-off story I wrote a while ago and found on my computer, so I've decided to post it in the hope some of you might enjoy it.
There are little things which go unnoticed. Like a smile which lights up something special for only certain people. The touch of a hand which lingers just a little too long. A subtle change in topic when the conversation wonders. The distant look in an eye after as a memory is evoked. Small things, subtleties, but significant none the less.
We dance together as the band plays softly in the background, with her in my arms I can almost image that we are alone, that we are not surrounded by all of her former crew, their families and the brass. For now it is just the two of us. I gaze into her face she looks up at me and smiles gently as if to thank me for my patience and tolerance of this important part of her past. She doesn't have to thank me, I realised how important these people were to her early on in our relationship, it's not a burden to indulge her.
I knew Kathryn before Voyager, vaguely, we had met in passing on conferences, training weeks, we shared some of the same friends, but there had never been the opportunity to get to know one another more intimately… besides she had always been involved back then. Some of our shared friends say that she has changed, that she has lost some of that spark back from before Voyager, but I couldn't say, all I know is that she is dazzling now, so she must have been blinding back then.
The music changes tone, the tempo slows and people start moving on and off the dance floor. I could remain with her indefinitely like this, but I'm suddenly made aware that I am not the only one wanting to dance with her in this moment. We stop and she pulls back from me, the smile on her face as she looks up deeply and affectionately at her former first officer enough to cause my gut to twist a little; she never looks at me like that.
He shakes my hand, firmly as if making a forced attempt to be polite, then his eyes dart back to hers and remain there as he apologises for being late. Kathryn drops my hand in favour of enveloping this man who has been a stranger in her life for well over a year into a fierce hug, and I know that he was never nothing to her. Chakotay barely waits for me to grant permission to dance with my wife, but stiffly I nod my head, and walk purposefully towards the bar.
She said his name once. Whilst asleep. I asked about him that morning, but she smiled and shrugged her shoulders and said that she must have dreamt him. She doesn't really talk about him. I didn't think twice about that at first; they were colleagues, allies and good friends on Voyager, and then they got home, landed the ship, and parted ways. He married a former drone a few months after their return, and a little while later she agreed to marry me. He moved away with his young wife, and she remained on Earth with me, it seemed so simple, so clean, so straightforward and she swears they were never lovers.
Casually I watch Voyager's former captain and first officer dance together, I had expected they would be talking animatedly to one another, catching up, but they're not. They move slowly, gliding across the floor, oblivious to anyone and everything else around them, he finally says something, and she smiles, something in her smile not seeming quite right, until whatever it is falls away, and she responds with a small nod of her head.
I find myself fiddling with my wedding band, and make a conscious effort to stop. During the debriefings with Voyager I had suspected something more to Kathryn's relationship with Chakotay; being a member of the review committee I was present at many of the formal functions held to commemorate their return. Having been charged with going through their professional logs from certain incidents such as their various Borg encounters I had come to understand they had founded a strong friendship, and from reading between the lines I had suspected there might have been something more. However this was strangely at odds with how they behaved towards one another at the formal and slightly more informal functions held. They barely seemed to speak more than a few words to one another, and when they did it was always professional, if not with a vague fondness.
I wasn't the only one initially with such suspicions; after all, most of us who have been in command have been tempted to indulge in relationships with our subordinates; and considering that on paper it looked like Chakotay had become her closest confident, it was only natural for people to suspect that she might have taken her first officer into her bed. Kathryn was interrogated for two days straight over her involvement with Chakotay, but like many of her other questionable or shady events in command, the review committee decided to let it go. She came out of it squeaky clean, if not a little daunted at the depths to which they were interested in her personal life.
As I look at her dancing with that man now, a thought occurs to me that their behaviour during the months following their return was forced. Perhaps they had been lovers, and the distance with which they regarded one another was as a result of whatever had brought an end to the affair. I start to consider that they might have still been lovers, and perhaps their behaviour could have been a front to deflect the questions Kathryn knew were undoubtedly about to come up about her relationship with her first officer, but then I reconsider, as I remember the young blonde's arm firmly looped through Chakotay's during those first few months. I try to clear my mind of such thoughts, even if they had once been lovers, it would have been a long time ago, it shouldn't matter now… then I catch sight of the maquis lower his head to whisper something in her ear, whatever it was he said, she seems unsettled by it, but doesn't pull away from him. Then I realise what's bothering me, as I watch helplessly as my wife dances with this man and for the first time I see that she has fallen in love with him.
It's not the kind of love that she holds for the rest of her crew; a love for family. It's not the kind of love I know she holds for me, which I sometimes feel to be shallow and fragile. I recognise it as the type of love which is timeless and unbreakable, which fluctuates and is blinding, never wavers but sometimes wonders, and always returns. I can see it now, in them, because I knew that kind of love once, but like so many things that the Cardassians took during the war, the woman with who I shared that with was lost to me too.
For a long moment I'm frozen in my realisation, but sensing that I'm being observed I break from my disturbing revere and turn to see Chakotay's wife standing only feet away from me.
"Chakotay tried to explain it to me once," she tells me absently when I have acknowledged her presence with a small questioning smile.
"To explain what?" I ask, although I think I already know what she's talking about.
Seven of Nine nods towards the couple dancing discretely at the other end of the hall from us, "what she means to him."
I frown, unsure why a man might tell his wife about his feelings for another woman. "And what did he tell you?"
"That he fell in love with her."
My jaw drops for a moment before I remember myself, "he told you that?"
"Yes," she tells me simply. "I asked him in that case why he wasn't with her."
"And what was his answer to that?" I ask, both horrified and intrigued.
"That it is too difficult to love someone more than they can equally return," she raises an eyebrow as if repeating his words to the letter. "I didn't understand at first… I'm still not sure that I ever will do so completely, but I think he meant that he couldn't be with her because he didn't feel she could ever love him back."
I frown as my gaze drifts back across to the couple we are discussing, "I'm not sure if reciprocation of feelings is the problem to be honest Anika," I say thoughtlessly and with an absence in which I only realise what I have said when a hear only a silence follow. I turn back round to her and find her eyes locked on my wife.
"I know," she says at last, a sadness in her voice which is unbecoming of her usual character. Hoping that she might elaborate I wait patiently until she faces me. "I don't think they realised that they were still in love until Chakotay was with me and the admiral had become involved with you. By then they must have considered it too late to act selfishly for fear you and I would get hurt… I think that's why they never talk, why Chakotay was so eager to move far away and the main reason Kathryn and I are no longer close. They've been trying so hard to fall out of love, and perhaps they can delude themselves that it's over, but it only takes a moment like this to see that she still has his heart… sometimes I wish she would just take it."
Her last words stun me, and I'm unsure that I want to question her about them, but I find myself doing so, as if picking at a scab whilst knowing that in doing so it will never heal.
She looks up at me and shrugs tiredly, "it is too difficult to love someone more than they can love you in return," her words echo those of her husband in a torturous and teasing manner, as if she too realises the irony of the situation. Chakotay chose her to avoid being hurt by a lesser love, only to end up passing that hurt on to Seven instead. She seems resigned by it, defeated that it should be her fate, to forever love a man who will always belong to another woman.
I wonder if Kathryn felt that same way about me, if I was a less difficult option... but then I decide it doesn't matter, after all it's my bed that she shares at night, not his.