Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager belongs to Paramount, the writers, and whoever else can legally claim it. I am writing for fun and not profit.
AN: I had planned on waiting to write this until I finished "25 Moments," but my muse just wouldn't leave it alone. This could actually fit into that collection, but as it was written for a challenge I needed to keep it separate.
For a challenge over on the VAMB boards. The challenge was to write a J/C fic based off one of the episodes you generally wouldn't think of as being the basis for such a story. I chose "Flashback" from the list, cause I had what I hoped would be a few really good things to work into a conversation. And I have always wanted to use one particular quote in a fic. Reviews are appreciated as always.
The Best Captains
By Lady Callista
"Intuition, however illogical, is recognized as a command prerogative." -Captain James T. Kirk
"Come in." Kathryn called, looking up from her computer as the door to her quarters chimed.
Chakotay entered with a bowl in his hands, surprised to see that the dining table was empty. "Did I get the wrong time?" When she only looked at him with confused eyes, he added, "Dinner?"
Her eyes widened, and she hurriedly tapped a few buttons on her terminal before rising. "Is it nineteen hundred already?" She asked, realizing it was a foolish question even as she asked it. "Sorry, I completely lost track of the time."
"I thought you were caught-up on reports." He said with a smile as he set the fruit salad he'd picked up from the mess hall on the table.
"I am, I was just, uh, going through some old history files." She admitted.
He understood at once. "Hikaru Sulu?"
Kathryn smiled ruefully, she should have known word of her and Tuvok's adventure was already all over the ship. "Him, Kirk, Pike, Archer." She made a rolling gesture with her hand. "Various others of the greats. It was like once I got started one thing just kept leading to the other."
"Did you ever meet any of them?" Chakotay asked as she crossed to the replicator and began to program something in.
"Well I feel like I've met Sulu now," Kathryn chuckled, "Although he nearly tossed me in the brig. And while I was still at the Academy I attended a lecture Ambassador Spock gave on Vulcan history, but didn't have an opportunity to speak with him afterwards. You?"
"Just Sulu." Chakotay said with a grin as she set a water pitcher and glasses on the table before turning back to the replicator for the rest of the meal. "He actually sponsored my entry to the Academy."
Her eyes widened for an instant, then she chuckled. "I'd forgotten that. Well, well, sponsored by one of the greats."
He started to say he had never told her before, then realized with a start that of course it would be in his file, which she had studied before she even met him. "He was a kind man, and a funny one."
"Did he tell you any stories?"
Chakotay shook his head slightly as they both sat down and began eating. "Not stories exactly, but he had a habit of using examples from his career to answer questions."
"Do you remember any of them?" Kathryn asked curiously as she took her first bite of vegetarian lasagna, somewhat amazed that her replicator had actually made exactly what she ordered it to for once.
"I haven't thought about him in a while." Chakotay replied thoughtfully. "But when you're a fifteen-year-old boy talking to a Starfleet Admiral, something you dream of being one day, it's hard not to hang on his every word. I'm surprised you're curious though. I overheard Kim talking in the mess hall, he said you told him earlier today that you think the whole lot from that time would be kicked out of today's Starfleet."
"Well they would." Kathryn said with a short laugh. "That doesn't mean they weren't exceptional people at the time, or that they didn't learn things that would be beneficial to officers today."
Chakotay leaned back, going over his memories, and finally thought of the perfect thing to share with her. "The last time I thought about something Admiral Sulu told me was a little under two years ago, not long after I'd met you."
She cocked her head curiously, wondering if he merely referenced it that way to tell her exactly when it was, or if something she had done had made him remember.
"Do you know how Kirk lost his first ship?" Chakotay asked in preamble.
"The original Enterprise?" Kathryn replied, thinking back over the logs she had read. "I know he self destructed her, something about keeping Klingons from getting her."
Chakotay nodded. "One of the things I asked Admiral Sulu, in that earnest way of a young boy, was how to be a good captain. You know, like what was the most important advice he had."
Kathryn chuckled. "I've been asked that myself. It's a hard question."
"Sulu said he didn't necessarily have one ultimate piece of advice, but that he knew what he thought had made Kirk such a great captain." Chakotay smiled at the memory. "He said it was something that another crewmember had said to Kirk, right after they blew up the Enterprise. Kirk was in shock, watching this ship he had commanded for so long go down in flames. And he asked, 'My god, what have I done?' probably not really expecting an answer."
"Who answered him?" Kathryn asked after a moment when Chakotay didn't speak further, seemingly lost in his thoughts.
"McCoy." Chakotay said absently, "I never forgot the words; they were foremost in my mind when I piloted the Val Jean into the side of that Kazon ship."
She reached out across the table, and he took her hand gratefully. Even after a few years, the loss of his old ship still hurt. Knowing she was waiting, he quoted the words softly.
"What you had to do. What you've always done. Turn death into a fighting chance to live."
The corner of her mouth tipped up in a smile as she squeezed his hand softly before releasing it. "That is a short definition of being a captain."
"Being a good one anyway." Chakotay chuckled. "When Harry was telling people what you said to him earlier it wasn't just how it was such a different Starfleet and none of them could be officers today, but also that you think it might have been fun to be on one of those missions."
Kathryn winced even as she couldn't help but laugh lightly. "I'm not sure that should be getting around."
His dimples flashed as he said softly, "I think you're more like them than you want to admit. Or at least, you are after spending a few years out here. How many times have you turned a hopeless situation into a victory? Or had to bend a few rules?"
"I haven't bent that many. And I can't always take the credit for the victories." Kathryn flushed, slightly embarrassed at the praise even as she cringed internally at his comment about bending rules. It made her think about one of the ones she hadn't allowed to bend, despite how much she wanted it to. "Just in the last three months, Tuvok got us off New Earth, and Tom got Voyager back from the Kazon."
There was a beat of silence as each of them remembered things they normally tried to forget.
Then Chakotay nodded, pulling his mind away from joyful, and painful at the same time, memories, trying to keep the conversation on track. "That's true. And they did it because they knew you would have done the same in their place. Because they've seen you pull Voyager time and again from the jaws of death, and I think this crew is coming to believe there's nothing we can't do together."
"When we were in Tuvok's memory, Sulu said something I'll never forget." Kathryn replied softly. "Tuvok objected to him going on a mission to rescue Kirk because it was against regulations, and Sulu replied that serving on a starship was about more than following orders and regulations. He said that there was a sense of family, and loyalty to the people you served with. How when those people are in trouble you help them, no matter what."
"That's one thing that hasn't changed." Chakotay replied, watching her eyes grow introspective. He wasn't sure what she was thinking about, but he resumed eating as she worked through whatever it was. This was only the third time she had invited him to share dinner with her in her quarters, and he didn't want to push things. He enjoyed these brief times with her far too much.
His patience was rewarded a few minutes later when she said his name faintly, and he gave her his full attention as he hummed in acknowledgement.
"You asked me a question a month or so after we got stranded out here, and I used my prerogative as captain to not answer." Kathryn said, almost hesitantly.
Chakotay chuckled briefly. "Would you have served under me?"
Her eyes widened in shock. "You still remember that?" She tried to ignore the fluttering in her belly at the glint she had seen in his eyes when he repeated the words, although she knew that this time both of them were thinking of the innuendo of those words.
His grin grew. "That was the only time you've ever answered me that way, so yeah, I do."
Kathryn looked down, briefly twisting her hands together in her lap before reaching out to him. She took a deep breath when his warm hand clasped hers, her eyes focusing on the contrast of white and bronze skin for a moment. Locking away any other thoughts conjured up by that image, which she had been steadily forcing herself to get better at over the past weeks, she looked up to meet his eyes. "Yes."
It was simply spoken, and he waited for an explanation. When none was forthcoming, he ventured, "Just yes? You'd known me for a day and you would have trusted me that much?"
"You trusted me that much." She responded softly. "We had already proven we could work together, and remember I did have your entire service record to tell me what kind of person you were. But it was more than that. There was a reason I offered to make you my XO, even above the fact that it would make integrating the crew easier. I knew that if anything happened to me, you were the best chance the crew had to get home."
He smiled gently at her faith in him, squeezing her hand, but was surprised at her words and couldn't help asking, "Why me?"
"I don't think I would have made nearly as good a first officer to you as you have to me, but…" Her gaze dropped as she whispered, "But if anyone else on this ship could get Voyager home, it would be you. When I think of all the qualities that make a good captain, you have every one of them. And somehow I sensed that right from the start."
A slight blush rose to his cheeks at the praise, and when she looked up again to meet his eyes he felt the spark of attraction snap between them. His thumb began caressing over her knuckles without him even realizing it.
They remained lost in each other's eyes for a moment, the trust and respect between them as evident as the attraction that couldn't be acted upon.
Kathryn took a deep breath as she broke the spell, sliding her hand from his carefully and picking up her water glass to have something to do with the hand.
"Thank you." Chakotay said softly as he tried to pull his emotions back, but after seeing the look in her eyes it was difficult. "I think I could do it if I had to, but I don't think there's any chance of me sitting in that chair anymore."
She chuckled, also trying to lighten the mood. "Well, I know you'd never lead a mutiny." She couldn't help but adding seriously, "But there are other ways for the XO to take command."
He shook his head, not even wanting to think about that. Before he could consider the wisdom of his next words they were already being spoken. "If anything ever happens to you, I'll have already died trying to stop it."
Kathryn's eyes closed briefly, and he couldn't tell if it was because she was as afraid of losing him as he was of losing her, or if the emotion in his voice had been too clear, and too much. He immediately tried to rectify the situation. "After all, the best captains always have an amazing first officer looking out for them, don't they?"
Her eyes opened, and the corner of her mouth twitched in a small smile. "Amazing? You think pretty highly of yourself, don't you?"
He grinned back at her, and the intense moment passed, pushed away but not forgotten. "You did say not five minutes ago that I'd make a good captain."
"I did." She acknowledged, glad the tension in the room had faded. It was a constant struggle when they were alone together for her to keep her feelings for him from showing, so she purposely kept the mood light. "But like I said, I don't think I'd be such a good first officer, so I'm lucky we ended up like we did."
"We're both lucky." Chakotay responded lightly. "After all, although Ambassador Spock is a legend in his own right, I don't have nearly as long as he did to make my mark on the galaxy."
She cocked her head curiously, not understanding.
His grin widened as he explained, "Well, a hundred years from now, when cadets are telling legends of the great Captain Janeway, and wishing they could have served with her, I should at least get mentioned in a few of the stories."
She laughed with him, keeping her voice light as she replied, "If I was the one writing them, you'd be a main figure in every legend." On a more serious note, she added softly, "But first I've got to get this crew home."
"You will." He replied instantly, his faith in her flashing through his eyes. "We will. After all, that's what the best captains do, right? They protect and save their crews from whatever comes their way, and they always get them home."
Kathryn blushed even as she raised her water glass, thinking of Kirk, and Sulu, and all the other captains who had gone before. "To the best captains."
He clinked his glass with her own, thinking only of her. "To the best captain."
Their eyes met even as they raised the glasses to their lips, and as she realized the distinction he was making she couldn't stop herself from adding, "And the best first officer."
AN2: I know there is debate on which Sulu sponsored Chakotay, and the book theory that it was the daughter actually makes more sense age-wise, but in cannon Chakotay uses "he," and the thought that Chakotay had met Hikaru Sulu was actually the basis for this fic. Plus Memory-Alpha's entry on Hikaru Sulu says he was responsible for Chakotay joining Starfleet, which is good enough for me.