Disclaimer – Star Trek belongs to Paramount/CBS not me. No copyright infringement is intended.
Baggage by Photogirl1890
A/N: This is an episode tag for 2x25 "Resolutions"
Many thanks to Mary S for beta-reading. Any remaining mistakes are entirely my own. Feedback is welcome.
Rated K+ for mild coarse language.
"Don't ever do that to me again!" B'Elanna shouted, albeit not unkindly, as she entered the cargo bay. Chakotay was amidst a crowd of crates, struggling with a heavy equipment case under each arm. The sight of him was a soothing balm. It eased the frayed nerves she'd accumulated over the past three months, whilst he and the captain had been left behind on New Earth and Voyager had continued her journey without them. Given the stress they'd all been under, B'Elanna had surprised herself with the self-discipline she'd shown.
Chakotay looked up as he heard her, before turning his attention back to his feet until he'd stepped carefully over holdalls and rucksacks to an empty patch of floor.
"Nice to see you too," he quipped, dumping the cases down and enveloping his old friend in a quick hug.
"I would've come to find you sooner, only I've spent the last six hours diagnosing a problem with one of the Bussard collectors," she said into his shoulder. He released her and she stepped back, taking in his appearance more thoroughly. He looked fit and healthy, if a little tired around the eyes. She added, "I went up to the bridge and Captain Janeway said you were in Phaser Maintenance. Then you weren't there either."
She'd had to query the computer for his location. It was somewhat surprising that he hadn't stopped by engineering already. If she'd just spent all those weeks away from her closest friends, the first thing she'd want to do when she got back on Voyager was say hello to them.
"I had a few things I wanted to sort out," he explained, turning away from her and going back to unloading the crates.
B'Elanna sighed. "It's so good to have you back - you and the captain."
Chakotay flashed her a smile, but it wasn't his characteristic broad grin. It wasn't forced but it was half-hearted. Maybe it was desynchronosis. His body had to get used to ship time once again. For all she knew, for him it was the middle of the night. She moved to help him, before realising that he most likely had a system in place for sorting the contents of the crates, and she had no idea what that system entailed.
"Captain Tuvok not to your liking?" he asked, rhetorically.
B'Elanna crossed her arms over her chest and snorted. "I'm not saying he didn't do his best under the circumstances," she said, grudgingly acknowledging the difficulty of the Vulcan's position. "But how there wasn't an all-out mutiny . . .Did you know Harry Kim was relieved of duty at one point? Harry Kim! That's how bad things got. And you should have seen some of the shoddy work I had to put up with in engineering. People just lost focus." Thankfully, it had all come right in the end.
Chakotay raised his eyebrows but didn't enquire further. He seemed more concerned with a couple of oddly shaped wooden panels that he'd located. What the hell were they? They looked like . . .Were they headboards? They certainly weren't Starfleet-issue.
"Well, we're grateful you came back for us," he said, flatly.
B'Elanna stacked a couple of smaller containers, and finding that two together were the perfect height to take the weight off her legs, she sat down. "I'm sorry," she said, feeling guilty about her rant. "It must have been awful for you. I shouldn't be complaining."
That didn't get much of a reaction from him, either. She'd expected him to be far happier than this to be back on Voyager, after being condemned to spending the rest of his life halfway across the Galaxy from home, with no one but Janeway for company . . .
B'Elanna frowned. Certainly, there were worse people to be stranded with. Tuvok, for example. Or Chell. Or Tom Paris, the arrogant pig. Only that very morning, Paris had rubbed her the wrong way in the turbolift, joking that it would have been "so much fun" if he and B'Elanna had been marooned together. "Just a single man and a single woman, all alone for weeks . . ." petaQ! To be stuck alone on a planet with Tom Paris would be unbearable. Insufferable. Beyond the pale. She brought her thoughts back to the situation at hand as, at long last, Chakotay spoke.
"Actually, it wasn't awful at all," he said. "It was tough to begin with, but once the shock of being stranded wore off and we got into a routine . . . the time just flew by. For me, anyway."
That was interesting. Janeway had been in such a rush to get back on course for the Alpha Quadrant that Voyager hadn't even parked in orbit. Paris had been ordered to simply swing the ship around the planet, and as it had passed over the relevant coordinates, Janeway, Chakotay and the equipment had been beamed aboard.
"But you must be glad you've got other people to talk to again?" B'Elanna ventured. Surely he was pleased to back amongst his friends – his comrades. Hadn't he missed them?
"Of course. But it was . . . very liberating, not having the responsibilities that come with being first officer. Not having Kazon or Vidiians to worry about. We only had each other to look out for."
B'Elanna rose from her makeshift seat to help him unload a large sand painting. What was he planning to do with all this stuff? Refurnish his quarters? Janeway had told Tuvok that for twelve hours a day, every day, she'd worked on finding a cure for the virus. If the plethora of art and woodwork in the cargo bay was anything to go by, Chakotay hadn't spent much time assisting her.
"What the hell did the two of you find to talk about all those weeks?" B'Elanna probed, sitting herself back down.
"We got along just fine," he said, defensively.
That didn't really answer her question. She studied him carefully. Something really wasn't right and it was more than just tiredness. A large, empty container with wooden sides caught her eye. Seized with curiosity, she went over for a closer look. Its smooth interior was covered with a film of what looked like waterproofing lacquer. There was a small hole sunk into the bottom of it. Was it . . .
"Is this a bathtub?" she exclaimed.
"Uh huh," Chakotay affirmed, not bothering to glance over.
B'Elanna paused. "Did you make it?"
In hindsight, it was a stupid question. Either he'd constructed it, or the captain had. The replicator they'd been left with wasn't capable of fabrication on such a scale and besides, the wood looked natural - B'Elanna could see the knots and the slight imperfections where the timber had been planed. It was a fine piece of work. It must have taken him hours.
"You made it for the captain," she said, unintentionally voicing the thought aloud.
Everyone knew that Janeway liked her baths as much as they knew she loved coffee, but the modular shelter had only been equipped with a sonic shower. The availability of a bathtub was hardly deemed a priority on Starfleet away missions, whatever the duration. Building a bathtub wasn't the sort of thing one did for a superior officer; it was the sort of thing one might do for a friend.
Chakotay ran a finger under the collar of his uniform and stretched the fabric. He didn't meet her puzzled gaze. This was not a man overjoyed at being rescued from exile. Far from it. This was a man who had just lost something. Maybe not a tangible thing, but . . . Damn.
B'Elanna put all the pieces together and drew her own conclusions. She would bet a month's replicator rations that something had developed between Chakotay and Janeway during their time on New Earth – something more profound than mere friendship borne of circumstances. Something that had to end, now that they were back on the ship. Not that B'Elanna was jealous. Two years ago she would have been - a year ago, even. But not now. She was merely curious, surprised - and slightly concerned.
With the keen eye for scale of an engineer, she found herself sizing up the dimensions of the tub. No, it wasn't big enough for two; but it was too big to fit inside the modular shelter's tiny bathroom. Mulling over the logistics of the New Earth bathing situation, she realised that she was intruding on a private moment. She stepped back from the bathtub. Her presence in the cargo bay was making her friend uncomfortable. Clearly, he wanted to be alone. There'd be plenty of time to catch up with him later.
So, B'Elanna made her excuses and left him there sorting through his baggage, more convinced than ever that dissuading Ayala from leaving that little "welcome home" present in the first officer's quarters had been the right thing to do.
No, the can of insect repellent and the mosquito net would not have been well received.