Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own any of the following characters, places, or events.

Author's Note: Three-shot, written for VAMB's Secret Summer 2012. Phamy requested a Janeway/B'Elanna close friendship piece with "lots of Angst." This, the result, is set in the weeks following season five's "Nothing Human." Profuse thanks goes out to Bones Bird for her impromptu beta-work, and also for pitching me the title. You're a life-saver!


Breaking the Walls
by Dax's10thHost

"What do you think you're doing?"

The doors to his office seemed to explode as B'Elanna rocketed into the room, a mass of flaming cheeks and flashing teeth. Chakotay merely glanced up at her outburst and set aside the duty roster.

"I think I missed something." He folded his hands on the desk. "Care to fill me in?"

"This," B'Elanna snarled, and thrust a padd into his face. Chakotay stared down his nose at the orange print.

"The crew assignments for tomorrow's mission."

"Yes, the crew assignments for tomorrow's mission!" B'Elanna snapped, and hurled the padd across the room.

"Is there a problem, Lieutenant?"

"Don't you lieutenant me, Chakotay! Don't you dare!"

"I asked if you had a problem, lieutenant, and if you don't have an answer for me, then you can leave this office. Immediately. I don't have time for tantrums."

B'Elanna's jaw dropped. "Problem? Problem? That's all you think this is? A problem? You listen to me, Chakotay." She crouched over his desk and shook her fist. "I am way past problem status on this. You assigned me to a mission with her, and I won't have it. Not after what she did to me."

"She saved your life, B'Elanna. I'd think you'd at least be a little grateful for that."

"No, she overruled my wishes, that's what she did, and I don't appreciate being stomped on, Chakotay. She had no right – "

"She had every right!"

B'Elanna reared back. "How?"

"She's the Captain."

"Oh, and I suppose if she wanted to maroon us all on an airless asteroid, that would be fine, too. Because she's the Captain," B'Elanna spat.

"That's enough!"

"I can't believe you're defending her!"

"I'm her first officer. What do you expect me to do?"

"I expect you to be my friend!"

"I am your friend, B'Elanna. But I'm also your commanding officer, and you're going on that mission tomorrow whether you like it or not." He held her glare. "Now, I suggest you get yourself together and walk out of here acting your age, or you can spend a night in the brig."

"But – "

"I said that's enough! Dismissed. And pick up that padd on your way out."

B'Elanna stood frozen, lips parted and eyes wide above her flushed cheeks. Chakotay watched her for a steady moment, then severed the contact and returned to the week's duty roster. He didn't look up when B'Elanna stirred, stomped over to the padd, and swept out of the room. Nor did he look up after the doors had closed behind her.

As far as he was concerned, this wasn't his problem anymore; it was B'Elanna's.

And the Captain's.

. . .

Chakotay breezed into the shuttlebay, lips pursed and head cocked to one side. Despite the simplicity of the survey planned, the room echoed with activity, seeming to swell with the importance of the senior officers occupying it.

Tom, the pilot for the morning's survey mission, emerged from the Delta Flyer's belly with an empty cargo container slung atop his shoulder, alternately singing and whistling something about islands and three hour tours as he strolled across the bay. His hair was its typical tousled sandy brown, but his uniform was crisp, clean, and wholly befitting an officer of his caliber.

B'Elanna, still a fury, swept past her humming beau with a scowl stamped upon her features. Her short legs churned up a sea of anger, leaving a crackling energy in her wake and causing Chakotay to exchange looks and shrugged shoulders with Tom.

The Captain stood at an auxiliary console, checking and double-checking the specs for the anomalous readings in a nearby asteroid field, otherwise known as the target for the survey mission. At the sound of the bay doors and Chakotay's answering footsteps, Janeway swung around. Seeing him, her lips parted to demand why he was here and not on the bridge as she'd assigned. Before she could, though, Tom tossed the cargo container aside with a clatter and cleared his throat.

"All set?" he asked, looking first to Janeway and then to the stony-faced B'Elanna who'd anchored herself behind him.

"Not quite," Chakotay answered. "Give us a moment?"

"Sure," he said, and dragged B'Elanna into the Flyer.

Kathryn turned to him. "Why are you here, Chakotay? You're supposed to be – "

"On the bridge. Yes. I know. But Tuvok can handle things for a few minutes. I needed to talk to you for a few minutes."

"Now is not the best of times, Chakotay. If we don't launch soon, we'll miss our window for charting the anomaly."

"Be careful out there."

She softened. "You know this isn't a dangerous mission. And with Tom at the helm – "

"I'm not talking about safety, Kathryn. I'm talking about B'Elanna."

Janeway's eyes sharpened to flint. "I'm not the one who needs to be careful on that matter."

"Five years ago, you made me your first officer, which means it's my responsibility to look out for your safety; that's all I'm doing here. I can't promise B'Elanna's best behavior out there."

"Well, she'd better behave herself, or she's going to have some severe consequences when we return."

"Stop treating her like an officer for just one second, Kathryn, and see her for who she really is! For B'Elanna!"

"B'Elanna is my officer."

"Not in this matter, she isn't. She's a person. You crossed a line with her last week, and that demands some answers."

"Are you questioning my captaincy, Commander?"

"I don't know. Am I?"

"Commander…" Kathryn's voice was dangerously gritty.

He matched her glare. "She's got some hard questions for you, Kathryn, and I'm not going to keep her from asking them. Not this time."

Tom poked his head out the Flyer'sdoor. "Captain? You ready?"

Janeway flicked her eyes to the pilot's luminous blue ones, lips thinning to a line. "Coming, Tom."

The pilot nodded and ducked back into his ship. Chakotay's shoulders loosened.

Kathryn turned back to him, eyes icy like steel in an Andorian winter. "You talked about crossing lines, Commander? I'm not the only one who needs to guard my actions. Or my tongue."

He merely looked at her, then watched as she turned and boarded the shuttle. Despite the clenched muscles in his gut, he knew he'd done the right thing. Not even captains should go unquestioned sometimes.

. . .

The air inside the Flyer was frosty – that's the only way Tom could describe it. Frosty, like the window panes in winter, the winter his father had refused to give him flying lessons for Christmas because he'd made a B in algebra class. One lousy B.

Bee.

Other than the perfunctory launch answers such as "check… check… check…," she hadn't said anything, and neither had the Captain. In fact, no one had said a word since the final "check" had sunk into the stale walls.

Tom shivered. Funny, how cold could make such a confined space seem so… vast.

Another chilly minute passed before he could bear it no longer. "Approaching the anomaly," he announced, and shifted a few levers to the left. Then some to the right. Finally, a flick of the switch in the middle. Just a few more minutes…

"I'm not reading anything, Tom. B'Elanna, is this part of the anomaly's quirks?"

"I don't know. That's Seven's specialty."

"B'Elanna!" Tom barked, and felt her eyes boring into his neck.

"Sorry," she mumbled. But not really. And they all knew it. "From what Seven told me and based on the readouts Harry took early this morning/late last night, it's possible that the fluctuations could be messing with our sensors. Then again, I'm not sure, and can't be without getting closer."

"Wait." Tom's neck prickled under Janeway's sudden suspicion. "Tom – if our sensors can't detect the anomaly, then how did you know we were approaching it?"

Not a moment too soon. Tom flipped the switch, waited for the inertial dampers to arrest the repercussions of a sudden stop, and stood. "I think that's my cue to leave, ma'am," he said. Her eyes narrowed, but he didn't care. Right now, he was pissed at both of them.

"What do you think you're doing, Lieutenant?" Janeway ground out, moving to block the door to the cargo hold.

"Me? Oh, I'm just heading back for a snack. Forgot to eat breakfast this morning and I'm awful hungry. You don't mind, do you?"

"Lieutenant Paris," she said, enunciating as if to slice. "Take your station. I have not dismissed you."

"Sorry, ma'am, I can't do that. I'm under strict orders to keep up my energy, you see, and if I don't eat breakfast, I'm afraid I don't perform well. I might even be impaired enough to crash us into a nonexistent asteroid."

"Tom…"

"I'm sorry, B'Elanna. But we had to do it."

"Do what?" The backlash in her voice was enough to make his skin tingle. Again.

"Excuse me, Captain. I'm going to leave you two ladies to each other now. I'll come back up when the screaming's done. Oh, and don't bother trying to unlock the Flyer's controls. Even you can't crack this one, B'Elanna. It'll only respond to my code, my voice, and my fingers. Perks of being the designer."

And with that he shouldered past Janeway, knowing she'd make him pay for it later, and locked himself in the cargo hold.


To be Continued