Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek: Voyager or anything related to it. I'm just borrowing the characters for my own perverse amusement.
A.N. Thank you so much to my lovely, lovely reviewers! You people are all so kind and never fail to make my day! And if you haven't read it (which is unlikely, I admit), go read scifiromance's new C7 fic, Contagion. I can't wait to see where she goes with it, and I'm sure you'll all agree with me! After you've read this, of course! :) Enjoy!
Chakotay groped beside his bed for his combadge, eyes still closed, willing it to stop repeating the same words over and over again at this ungodly hour. "Seven of Nine has entered Astrometrics. Seven of Nine has entered Astrometrics. Seven of Nine has-"
Finding the combadge and giving it a quick slap to shut it up, he heard it skitter off the table and land somewhere on his floor. He groaned into his pillow. "Computer," he asked, voice muffled, "what time is it?"
"The time is oh two forty-seven hours."
Chakotay groaned again. He could have sworn the computer even sounded smug. Ordering it to turn on the lights to a dim setting, he forced himself out of bed and grabbed the crumpled uniform he had been wearing the day before. When he had entered his quarters, completely drained of energy, only three hours previously, he had barely been awake enough to remove it, let alone put it in the refresher.
What was Seven doing in Astrometrics at this hour anyway? She had been working in Engineering all day, didn't she need to regenerate? Leaning his head against the wall above the replicator, he mumbled an order for oolong tea, taking a sip before heading towards the door, head still not quite clear of sleep. But before he got there he stopped, turning back towards the replicator and asked for a second mug of the dark beverage that he preferred to coffee.
Voyager's corridors were empty as he strolled through them, careful not to spill the hot drinks he carried with him. As he reached Astrometrics he realised he probably should have asked the computer if Seven was still there before he left his quarters. He would feel slightly ridiculous going to talk to her, only to find that she had only been there for a matter of minutes to pick something up. But as the doors opened he found his worries to be in vain. Seven was standing, facing the large screen as her fingers danced across the console she was working at.
She turned as he approached but didn't say anything. Neither did Chakotay. Instead he planted the untouched mug of tea in front of her and studied the platform wearily. He was too tired to stand for a conversation of this magnitude so he was going to follow the example of the one person on the ship who spent nearly as much time in Astrometrics as Seven. He had entered Astrometrics more times than he could count over the past year to find Naomi Wildman lying or sitting on the platform, perfectly content as she amused herself while Seven worked. If a little girl could find a comfortable position here then surely he could too.
Settling his back against the wall and stretching his legs out until his booted feet touched the side of the console, he finally looked up at Seven and spluttered into his tea in an attempt not to laugh. The young woman was so blessedly confused by his appearance that the expression on her face was nothing short of adorable.
"Seven," he greeted her with a grin which he tried to hide behind his mug.
"Commander?" Seven replied in turn, but her acknowledgement was laced with a silent question which Chakotay recognised as, 'Why are you here at oh three hundred hours?'
Shifting slightly in an effort to get more comfortable (he really had no idea how Naomi managed it), he brought one knee up closer to his chest and balanced his mug on it. Crossing his arms, he took in the sight of the still untouched mug of tea on the console above him and decided to start his conversation with the simple question, "So how many hours have you been awake for now?"
Seven, still completely bemused by the First Officer's appearance in Astrometrics, for no reason apparent to her, when the majority of the ship was asleep, answered automatically before she realised it might be something she didn't really want him to know. "Forty-six hours and twenty-one minutes," she stated, deciding he didn't really need to know the number of seconds too.
Chakotay didn't seem surprised. "That's what I thought," he mused, then nodded towards the still steaming mug in front of her. "Drink up, it's not poisoned." He watched as Seven peered at the mug sceptically. "It's tea. It's got more caffeine than coffee and tastes better too, not that the Captain would agree with me."
Seven hesitantly raised the mug to her lips and took a sip, noting the strength of its content. She had to agree that it tasted better than the coffee the Captain had once fed her and she'd avoided ever since, but as for its caffeine levels...
"Tea has more caffeine than coffee only in a dried state," she corrected the Commander softly. "The caffeine levels drop when it's brewed. This mug of tea would approximately have the same amount of caffeine as a very weak mug of coffee." She heard Chakotay 'hmmm' softly beside her and, worried that she had spoken out of term, she added hastily, "But it does taste better than coffee."
Chakotay smiled at the concession, impressed at the knowledge she had imparted. Somehow it didn't seem like something the Borg would keep on record so he had to assume it was something she had learned herself during her time on Voyager. "And it will keep you from falling asleep on your feet for, at least, a little while longer." He studied her carefully as he continued. "I know Voyager's in bad shape but we're not so desperate to finish repairs that you need work yourself into the ground."
Seven stiffened, though the action was barely perceptible. "Regeneration is more efficient than sleep, Commander." The softness and tiredness was gone from her voice, replaced by a cold, hard deliberateness and Chakotay noticed her fingers tighten on the mug. "I can continue to work without regeneration for another day without being adversely effected."
"If the Doctor found out I'm not sure that he'd agree with you."
Seven flinched. It was impossible to miss and Chakotay instantly felt guilty. He realised that his statement, so callously uttered, sounded almost like blackmail. But it had been necessary, he told himself, to open up the subject he knew needed to be discussed.
"Don't worry, I won't tell him," he tried to reassure her with a smile. "But you can't avoid him forever," he pushed ahead and decided to call her on her obvious fear.
This time, Seven gave away nothing. "Commander, I have learnt that it is almost impossible to avoid another person on this ship." Chakotay grinned inwardly. He'd concede that point. "And I spent approximately two hours in the Doctor's company on the holodeck yesterday."
She made a good point- one he couldn't refute. So he played the only card he had left. "So why aren't you regenerating?"
Seven's lips were pressed together in a thin line. He thought she would try and lie to him, or maybe, just maybe she would tell him what was going through her mind. Instead, she shocked the hell out of him by answering his question with one of her own. "Why aren't you sleeping? You need to rest far more than I do."
"Because I'm worried about you!" Chakotay blurted out, lifting the mug off his knee and rising to his feet to face the stubborn woman.
If it was possible, Seven looked more confused than she had when Chakotay had unexpectedly taken up residence in her lab with the gift of tea. Was it so strange, he wondered brokenly, for her to be shown kindness and concern? Or was it just strange for him to be the one displaying it?
"This isn't an interrogation, Seven. Two days ago you were held hostage and tortured by a man who could be considered your best friend. You can't just be okay with that?" Could she?
Two mugs sat side by side on the console. Two pairs of hands rested beside them. Two people stared at each other, tense, tired and despairing.
Chakotay couldn't read the expression on Seven's face. She was obviously struggling for words- her brow creased in frustration. She almost looked furious, with herself or with him, he couldn't tell.
"I am fine." The words left her haltingly. But it was the words that followed them that caught Chakotay's attention. "I have to be."
He reached out and gently brushed her arm with his fingertips. When she didn't draw away he let his fingers travel down her arm to rest on top of her hand. "What do you mean?" he asked, his voice as gentle as his touch.
Her fingers clenched into a fist under his hand but he didn't remove it. He could hear the anger and the frustration in her voice, but he could also hear the desperation and the pain that she tried to hide. "The Doctor is my friend." Each word was forced though her lips as her emotions warred within her. "Without him as my friend, I would be alone." Instinctively she turned her face away from him, as though to hide her shame but Chakotay twisted himself so that he could look her in the eye.
What he saw frightened him. The mask of indifference that she had worn for two days cracked as she admitted, "I cannot be alone." It crumbled as she whispered, "I am frightened of him, even though I have no reason to be." The broken pieces fell away as she confessed, her voice fraught with grief, "I don't know what to do."
A.N. Sorry, this is a lot shorter than I planned it to be but this seemed like a fitting place to end the chapter! Hope you liked it- please review and let me know what you think, especially about the characterisation in this chapter. I'm a bit worried they're OOC...