By Eydie Munroe
Disclaimer: Yeah, they're not mine. If they were, I'd be a lot richer and would be poolside somewhere warm.
Note: This was written for VAMB's Secret Summer 2012 challenge. The request from JoAryn: "J/C fanfic – I'd like a missing scene that hints at or depicts an ongoing relationship while on Voyager". Enjoy!
The captain cautiously stepped out onto Voyager's bridge, taking in her new surroundings and trying to feel their familiarity. No one really acknowledged her presence until Harry's clear call of, "Captain on the bridge!" brought everyone to attention. She took another long, hard look around before her leaden feet finally brought her down to the command centre, her eyes uneasily locking with Chakotay's before they both took their stations.
He watched her for a moment, able to feel the uncertainty that was radiating off her. "Ready to go?" he asked quietly.
Kathryn gazed at the planet on the viewscreen with more melancholy than she would normally have ever let anyone see. "It may not have been real, Chakotay," she murmured, her eyes never leaving the screen, "but it felt like home. If you hadn't come after me, I never would have known that I had another life."
He frowned a little, wondering just exactly how happy she was to be sitting here again, taking on the responsibilities she had been wearing so heavily the last six years. "Are you sorry I showed up?"
Now she looked at him, her expression unconsciously hinting at the one she usually graced on somebody who had just said something incredibly stupid. "Not for a second." She felt comforted by the small smile he gave her in return, but her tiny bit of levity disappeared when she turned to face front and ordered, "Resume course." Kathryn never heard Tom's response as her eyes fell on Quarra once again, pulling her back into memories of the last few days.
The bridge grew silent as they moved out of orbit, Voyager taking just a few minutes to clear the system before jumping to warp. All of the crew that had been abducted were now burying themselves in their work, reading through schematics or reports or crew logs as they continued to reacquaint themselves with the ship and its systems. The four that had rescued them watched their colleagues closely, helping them when they needed it and keeping an eye out for anybody that might be suffering any fallout from the surgery that restored their memories.
The first officer noticed that the captain had barely moved since they departed, her eyes fixed on the padd in her hands. He was about to say something when she suddenly stood up, pausing awkwardly and looking down at the deck with her back to him as she told him, "You have the bridge."
Kathryn felt the tension in her chest ease when she entered the ready room, instinctively knowing it was a place of refuge even though her memory of it seemed distant. She slowly walked around the room, absently setting the padd down on the desk as she moved past it and back toward the centre of the room, her fingertips trailing along each surface as she walked by it. Eventually making her way to the upper level, she ordered a coffee from the replicator, inhaling its aroma and letting it cast a feeling of security around her. But the armour didn't last long, falling quickly under the assault of her own guilt.
As she stood in front of the windows and watched the stars streak by, memories of her relationship with Jaffen flooded her thoughts. Every bit of what she felt for him was honest, and she longed for the chemistry that they had discovered in just a short time. She loved him, and was heartbroken when they parted just an hour earlier. It had taken a while for her tears to stop after he left, and it was now taking everything in her power to hold them at bay. But try as she might, the memories wouldn't stop coming, almost tormenting her with their accuracy as they replayed their first meeting, first kiss, moving in together…
She remembered finding the strange man in her quarters, and how afraid she had been of him – until she saw that he was injured. There was something about the way that he spoke to her that interested her, though it did take him some explanation to get her to even consider believing him. The knot in her stomach tightened further when Kathryn also remembered that she had told the investigator everything, which she knew she would not have done if Jaffen hadn't tried to take the blame for Chakotay's presence in her former residence. It pained her to know that her words had caused him injury, and that she was responsible for him nearly having his memory altered as well.
The sound of her name startled her, and she whirled around to find Chakotay standing just inside the doorway. "Wha…?"
"I tried the door chime a couple of times, but you didn't answer," he said softly, seeing that she was spooked. "I wanted to make sure you were alright."
"I'm fine," she answered automatically, hoping that he would not press the issue. But those hopes were dashed when he didn't say anything, and continued to watch her. Kathryn let out a sigh, her eyes never leaving his. "Thank you for your concern, Commander."
Chakotay's brow knitted. He knew what she was doing. He'd tried to speak to her after the Doctor confirmed her memory had been restored, but she'd sidestepped him and had been avoiding him in the hours since. Logic told him that he should continue to leave her alone, that she would come to him in her own time. And a few months earlier, he would have done just that. But now the stakes were much higher, and his heart drove him to seek her out and talk. Not knowing what else to say, he told her, "It's not your fault."
Eyes that had once again fallen to the deck snapped up to look at his face. A bit of anger flared in her belly, but extinguished itself just as quickly as it appeared. "I know," she said as she turned away from him. Staring out into the passing stars again to try and focus on something other than her jumbled feelings, she added, "But that doesn't make me feel any better."
"What would?" he asked as he moved up to stand behind her.
She could feel his warmth as he came close to her, which just added to her anxiety. Hugging herself while still holding the mug, she whispered, "Forgetting what I did to you."
Her admission put another stake into his heart, but he had to push past it. Without another word, he took the mug from her and set it down on the table, then placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him. She looked up at him, eyes welling with tears under his unending gaze. Chakotay looked down at her, feeling the quiver through her arms as she fought a losing battle to hide her torment from him. So he gently pulled her into his embrace, burying his face in her hair as he held her.
Kathryn felt numb, her thoughts only on how she'd hurt him, and how miserable she felt. But when he held her, she finally uncrossed her arms and used them to wrap around his torso, resting her head against his chest as the tears started escaping. "I'm sorry, Chakotay," she apologized to him, gripping him even more tightly. "I'm so sorry…"
"Shhh…" He rocked her a little as she cried, his own tears falling down onto the shoulder of her uniform. "There's nothing to be sorry about, Kathryn."
She abruptly pulled back and right out of his grasp. "How can you say that?"
"Kathryn, I –"
"I cheated on you!" she cried at him, her arms wrapping around herself again as she backed away from him. "How many times have I told you I loved you? Showed you just how much?" Now she turned away from him, unable to face him. "We've been everything to each other, and I've destroyed it!" The silence stretched out between them, broken only by the sound of each of their sniffles. "I fell in love with someone else," she murmured after a while, her heart breaking with her admission. "I love you, but I also love him."
He knew that her anguish came from guilt, and it did nothing to soothe his own hurt feelings. But he tried to keep calm because she hadn't done it deliberately. "Kathryn, I know that," he told her softly, his hand reaching for hers and clutching it tightly. "But it wasn't really you, was it?"
Butterflies filled her stomach, and it felt like someone had parked a shuttlecraft on her chest. She told herself that Chakotay would never forgive her, and because of that, she would never be able to forgive herself. After taking a deep breath to steady herself for what she had to do, she looked him in the eye and firmly told him, "I'll understand if you don't want to see me anymore."
"You haven't heard a word I said, have you?" Chakotay fixed her with a harsh stare, and continued before she could answer. "I just told you that it wasn't your fault. I know that your mind was altered, Kathryn. And I know that you…" His mouth tried to form the words, but they got stuck in his throat and wouldn't let go.
"That I was sleeping with him," she finished.
Of course he had known it, but hearing it put into words was a horrid realization. He walked away from her, burying his face in his hands as he fought down the images that sprang to mind of her and Jaffen together in the throes of passion. When he was able to speak again, he admitted, "It broke me." Kathryn didn't know what to say, so she waited for him, her hand clamped over her mouth to keep from crying out. "I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut," he eventually continued. Then he turned around to look at her again. "It was hard enough when I realized that you didn't know me. But when I saw you with him, I just wanted to throw you over my shoulder and run." A picture of him tossing her over his shoulder and racing out of the bar flashed into Kathryn's mind, complete with her kicking and beating against his back to try and free herself. Her unexpected smiled confused him. "What?"
She couldn't help but chuckle just a little bit. "I never thought of you as the Neanderthal type, Chakotay."
He shook his head, a smile creeping into his expression. But when he looked back up at her, he was stone serious. "Kathryn, I can't lie to you and tell you that it doesn't hurt," he told her softly. "But I know it was completely out of your control, and I won't let some greedy, corrupt bastard steal what you and I fought so hard to have." He reached out for her hand, which he then clutched tightly to his chest as he stroked her cheek with his thumb. "I want to move past it," he added in a whisper, "but I can't do that without you."
"I know," she said with a deep sigh, her eyes sliding shut as she relished his touch. "I know." Her arms wrapped around him again as she pulled him to her, trying to blink back tears. "I still love you," she breathed, "so very much." He could barely hear her when she shakily added, "I don't want to let you go."
He pulled back and looked at her, their eyes locking before he leaned in and kissed her. When they parted he rested his forehead against hers, their tears of relief mingling together as they fell between them. "Then that's all we need."
They stood and held onto each other for a long time, combining their strength and comfort to soothe each other as they started to slowly move past their anger and hurt. Eventually she pulled back to look at him, a small but genuine smile on her face as she reached up and wiped the last remnants of tears from his cheek. "You should probably get back out there," she said softly, "before they think we're up to something."
Chakotay chuckled as he rubbed his hands along her back. "Kathryn, we live together. They already know we're up to something." He felt a little better when she freely laughed. "You're right though." After one more quick, but no less significant kiss, he asked, "I'll see you soon?"
She nodded, her promise that she wouldn't spend the entire shift hiding out in her ready room. After one last squeeze of his hands she let him go, but stopped him just before he could leave with, "Dinner tonight?"
Looking back at her, Chakotay felt his chest swell a little. "Sure. I'll get a head start on tearing the replicator apart for you."
Kathryn burst out into laughter. "Get out of here!" She watched him head through the doors, the sound of her laughter filtering out onto the bridge as he went. Though she still felt guilty, at least the misery that had been weighing on her earlier was now gone. It would take time and effort, but they now knew they would be alright.