She's the Captain
K+ – General, Angst – C, J – Oneshot.
Summary: Chakotay doesn't know if he likes Janeway. He respects her, maybe even admires her in a resentful kind of way. But he doesn't like her. He doesn't know her.
Season: very early one, when they're still trying to come to grips with being in the Delta Quadrant.
Disclaimer: As usual, not mine. Also, I nicked the concept of 'Nuhirrien' from Diane Duane's wonderful books about the Rihannsu so that's not mine either.
Chakotay misses his ship. Voyager might be amazing this and up-to-date that, but she's not Liberty. The thrum of engines humming through the bulkhead under his fingers is wrong, the smell that rises out of the carpets is wrong. And the rooms are just too big. Starfleet would laugh at him, but he gets agoraphobic in his quarters. Too much space stretching out around him instead of tight, cramped quarters, and the distance eats hollowly at his soul because it forces him to remember that loss. The loss of his ship, of too many of his people, of his home.
Not that he has much of a home anymore. The closest thing to a home he had left was that ship, the ship that's gone now. If he could return to the Alpha Quadrant tomorrow he'd have exactly as much home as he has now. Oddly enough, Chakotay knows this feeling very well. It's the feeling he had when he watched the Starfleet vessels leaving Dorvan IV and leaving him behind. It's the feeling he had standing in Starfleet Academy, all alone and far from the home of his fathers. It's the feeling he had standing in the ruins of his homeplanet and knowing he had no more family. It's the feeling he had when he left Starfleet to make a new life in the Maquis.
Now it's time to make a new life again.
But he misses his ship.
"Oh, my poor angry warrior. So angry at all the world." He called her Grandmother because everyone called her Grandmother, and she smiled at him pityingly, shaking her head at him, but that just made him even angrier so he knocked over half her vegetable garden in the night. He never did apologise for that. But he thinks she might have understood.
He wonders what she would have thought of B'Elanna, who is angrier than he's ever been. Not so much at being lost – they're both too used to being lost – but at being shoved back into a life she already escaped once, surrounded by the disapproval she rightly or wrongly believes their new crewmates feel. The Maquis worked for her, she was a misfit among misfits and fit right in. Misfits don't fit in in Starfleet.
Which is why Janeway is a fool to think this will work. What does she know of uncontrollable anger, about lack of confidence, about trying to find some place to fit in? She's just a Starfleet automaton, the best and worst of Starfleet in one small package: intelligence, strength, rigidity, and reliance on procedure. Too by-the-book. What does she know of angry warriors and Klingon tempers? What does she know of holding together a too-old ship with spit and chewing gum while fighting two enemies because the Federation, the people who should have been on your side, have abandoned you? She never loses her self-control, she never falters in her self-confidence. There's nothing to catch onto to give him a glimpse into her true self, no part of her he can latch onto and say that it is her and not Starfleet. She is unreal to him. Just the captain, not human.
He could pity her for the responsibilities she has, the ones put onto her and the ones she's taken on. Captain of 150 lost souls on the wrong side of the galaxy – that is something you could pity a person for. Could pity her, but doesn't. Because she is Starfleet, she isn't human.
And yet he's still here, still backing her up, still ignoring Seska's insistence that they could take the ship if they really tried. Because he's quickly learning that the one thing that Captain Kathryn Janeway doesn't lack is personality. And not just any personality, but the kind of personality that can drive otherwise sane and rational people to willingly blow up their own ships or agree to join together two enemy crews. Nuhirrien, the Romulans call it: 'look toward'. You look at her and somehow you don't find yourself looking away again. Damn charisma.
He doesn't know if he likes her. He respects her, maybe even admires her in a resentful kind of way. But he doesn't like her. He doesn't know her.
He thinks he might learn to like Voyager. There's an eagerness to this ship, a zest for life and a desire that shivers through her deckplates to prove herself, to lose herself in the blacknesses of space and be what she was built to be, a bird of the starways. She's a good ship, and as much as he misses Liberty he thinks he could like this new, impulsive ship.
But there's still that damn captain. Chaser-down of renegades. Capturer of Maquis. He could hate her for her bright, clean ship and her steady, unrelenting gaze. For the primary colours of the uniforms around him. On him.
The Starfleet uniform sits oddly on him, tugging at his shoulders, clinging strangely. He doesn't fit it anymore. He agreed to wear it for the sake of his crew, but this uniform – it isn't him. It pulls too tight, crushing him down as if to fit him into a box he's already dragged himself out of once. She's turned him into a puppet for all those things he left behind and the worst thing is that she made him agree to it of his own free will.
There are days – most of the time, in fact – when he thinks that this is the stupidest idea anyone ever had, when he thinks that there's no chance that Maquis and Starfleet could ever fit together to form a single crew. This isn't a crew, it's a ship full of tensions waiting to explode.
But occasionally, just occasionally, there's a moment or two when he thinks that they might just survive each other. Assuming, of course, that the rest of the universe gives them the chance.
"Don't look at me," she says impatiently. "That's up to the Commander to decide."
Tuvok hesitates but when she doesn't relent he turns to Chakotay and waits with stiff Vulcan displeasure for Chakotay's decision. Which he makes, his eyes never leaving Janeway, watching for some sign that she wants to take back her words, but there is none. She raises an eyebrow at him and he flushes, turning away, aware of Tuvok carrying out his orders, aware of the bridge crew listening in avidly, aware of the woman he has accepted as captain making no attempt to interfere with how he carries out his duties.
Chakotay thinks he could hate her if he tried. No one can be this trusting of a renegade. This has to be some Starfleet trick, some trap. She's waiting to see him fail. But dammit, she trusts him with her crew. What kind of captain is she?
Tuvok, on the other hand – Chakotay will never understand the man. The Vulcan followed his orders for the whole of his Maquis career, put his life on the line with the rest of them – but it was just a job, apparently. He never cared. Never will. And now, even though he stood side by side with Chakotay under Cardassian fire, he watches Chakotay with cold suspicion. How is he supposed to feel at home on a ship where most of the people under him don't trust him? And isn't he more trustworthy than Tuvok? He never lied to anyone here.
He prefers the messhall in the middle of night shift, when there's no one around, when he can eat in peace and not worry about keeping up the mask of composure that's always a micrometre away from falling off. Where there are no Maquis trying to convince him to take over the ship and no 'Fleeters eying him with sharp suspicion.
Where his captain sits in the shadows, silhouetted against the twisting colours of warp space. He stops in the doorway, feeling stupid and awkward, wanting to leave and knowing that even if she hasn't looked at him she knows very well he's there. Leaving would be running away, and he has too much pride to run away. Not from a Starfleet automaton who holds his future in her hands.
"Do you plan on standing in the doorway all night, Commander?" she asks finally, still never looking at him, and he feels his colour rise as it does too often around her. But he gathers his courage and steps in, he picks his way through the choices of food on offer to fill a plate, and he hesitates. "Have a seat," she says, no matter that she has still to turn her head from the window. Chakotay's chin lifts in unconscious defiance of her authority, contrariness stiffening his spine. "Or don't," she adds. "It really doesn't matter, Commander."
So he sits opposite her and for the first time she looks at him. He can't meet that gaze, so he focuses on his meal and there is silence between them, only the hum of Voyager's engines beating under his boots like the heartbeat of a great animal. He wonders if she feels it, this Starfleet automaton, or if to her it's nothing more than an element of her environment, of no importance in itself.
"Alien stars," she says quietly, breaking the silence, and he jerks his head up to look at her, once again staring out the window. Breathless wonder beats in her eyes for a moment. "No one from the Federation has travelled this far and returned to tell their story. Uncharted spaces, Commander. The unknown." Her whole body is taut with the true adventurer's fervour for exploration. Kupe in his canoe, Marco Polo in his caravan, James Cook in his ship. Chakotay blinks, startled at this unexpected dropping of the Starfleet persona.
She turns her head and takes in his expression. "You don't approve." Stupid and confused as usual around her, he mumbles something. "Is it asking too much to snatch some piece of joy out of this situation?" Bitterness snakes through her voice and he catches the flash of grief that darts across her eyes like the shadow of a fish flickering in a still pond. "Some joy, no matter how small or fleeting?" She resolutely turns her head from the window, focuses the whole of that too-vivid personality on him. "Or am I not allowed even that much? Is that to be my punishment for my decision, Commander? No happiness for the next seventy-five years? This is my fault. I admit that. I only wish there was something I could do to change it."
Platitudes. He believed in words once, believed until the Federation, in a wash of friendly, pacifying words, abandoned his people. He doesn't believe in words any more. Not even when he wants to.
"I've seen the looks in their eyes, you know. Accusations."
"No one..." He trails off, feeling foolish.
"I don't blame them." She looks out the window, past their reflections and into the cold dark. "My fiancé is back there. On Earth. Waiting for me to come back from my three week mission."
Chakotay freezes, staring at her.
"Mark." The word is a lonely sigh, before she visibly pulls herself together. "And my dog," she adds. "She's going to have puppies. We got the news just before I left. My mother, my sister..." She tears her eyes away from the stars and forces herself to meet Chakotay's, for this moment not Starfleet at all. "And I may very well never see any of them again, by my own order."
She is human to him then, real to him.
She's the captain, he said back as the Array blew up, and he knows now the truth of what he said and the stupidity of it.
"You'll see them again," he says, and for the first time it's not just a platitude, it's not just words, he actually means it. "You'll get us home."
He has no home, he has no faith in anyone, he has nothing – except she is here and she is human, just as human as he, and suddenly sitting here with his captain in the dark messhall of a lost ship, he feels like maybe he has everything.
She smiles at him in dark exalting sorrow. "We'll get us home, Chakotay," she corrects.
Sometimes Chakotay thinks they might just be able to do this.