"The Lady Of The Loch"
Setting: Post Scorpion
This is a JetC challenge piece. Each of us had to choose a song from a Celtic tape by Steve McDonald called, "Stone of Destiny" and write whatever J/C story came to mind.
What I heard/perceived from this song - especially from the music - was fear of the unknown and a sort of restless curiosity.
Disclaimer: Paramount & Viacom own everything that isn't nailed down. I'm not making any money out of this, just having lots of fun and fulfilling my dreams for the characters Janeway & Chakotay.
The legend lives on and is told
by the folk around Loch Ness
She's been seen by many for o'er
a thousand years, no less
an ancient creature who dwells
in the cold and murky deep
they named her Nessie
and they pray that she will keep, out there.
"You just lost me three credits."
There was no response.
B'Elanna grinned and waved her hand in front of her friend's eyes. "Hello... anybody in there?"
Chakotay blinked and quickly phased back into himself and Sandrines.
"B'Elanna... I'm sorry, I was somewhere else.
B'Elanna didn't need to ask where. She settled into the seat opposite him as her grin became a rueful smile. "Tom said you would be, but I bet him you wouldn't. So, you owe me Old Man"
He smiled and pointed a finger at her. "Serves you right... and less of the 'Old' Torres. I could still put you down with one hand tied behind my back."
"You'd have to catch me first, you big galoot. Besides..." She followed his line of vision. ".... I think I'm safe while the Captain's dancing a slow one with Parsons. You can't take your eyes off her long enough to...." Her voice trailed away as she looked back at him, saw his face close off and his body-language shout that she'd hit a nerve. Cursing herself, she reached out and took his hand across the table. "You're not still circling each other? Is this why you've been so quiet and withdrawn? Chakotay, it's been months! I thought you'd both agreed to disagree over what happened with the Borg and species 8472?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "We did... at least I thought we did, but it's still there between us. She can't or won't say sorry for making it personal. I don't need her to, but she feels guilty and uncomfortable about it, and somehow, it's making her mad at me. You're female... it probably makes perfect sense to you." His gaze returned to Janeway again and his face softened for a moment before he shook his head and said sadly, "It's either that, or it's the killer excuse she's been looking for to prove her point."
B'Elanna looked puzzled. "Her point?"
"Finally, the one air-tight reason why we can't ever recapture what we had..." He caught himself and recovered quickly. "Forget I said anything, B'Ella. I'm very tired and it's time I hit the hay." He rose a little unsteadily and moved around the table to lean down and kiss the top of her head. His fingers briefly caressed her face, and then his soft warmth was gone.
'B'Ella'? He hadn't called her that in years. The last time had been in the Alpha quadrant just after a gruelling Maquis mission. He'd been pale and exhausted then too, but refused to listen to her 'fussing' about sleep until everyone on their team was accounted for. He'd sent her off to bed though - like some ten year old kid. Nothing had changed. He was still protecting her, still treating her like a child. But she knew exactly how he felt about Janeway. Did he think she was blind as well as naive!
The door banged shut behind him and she swore in Klingon - thumping the table in frustration.
"B'Elanna? What's got you riled-up so fast?"
She glared at Paris as he took Chakotay's vacated seat.
"A friend who needs reminding of who he is... or once was! Someone who used to stand up for himself." She looked over at Janeway, shook her head and sighed heavily. "The man I knew five years ago would march her out of here - carry her out, if need be. He'd get it all out in the open... her doubts, her fears.... he'd make her see that we only want her to be happy, that there's no need to deny and hide her feelings this far from Starfleet. He'd make her see that there's nothing to fear except fear itself !" She pushed back her chair and stood up. "I'm going to talk to him, Tom. This can't go on. He's disappearing right before my eyes. I'll see you for breakfast."
Paris grimaced as he watched her leave. "Oh, brother. There's nothing like a quiet night in with friends." Downing his drink he got up to go after her, but his path was suddenly blocked by a tiny, but immovable black and red wall. Janeway's eyes locked with his and he knew he wasn't going anywhere.
"This isn't fair, Captain."
Janeway smiled and crossed her arms. "What's that old saying you're so fond of, Tom? 'Life's a bitch... and then you die'? Give."
"But, I don't know anything! Chakotay got up and left, then B'Elanna went after him. This really, really isn't fair, Captain."
"Neither are the lucrative betting pools you have running at the moment. I hear 'Ashmore's next big romantic crush' is doing a roaring trade. Do we understand each other, Tom?"
He studied her for a moment and nodded.
"Good. So, did B'Elanna say anything before she went after him?"
"Just something about reminding an old friend of exactly who
he is, or was."
Her fixed smile faded slightly and a shadow crossed her face before she
brightened again. "There... that wasn't so painful, was it?"
"I'll let you know when B'Elanna's finished with me."
She turned and moved towards the exit, calling over her shoulder, "Just remember that she leads with her left and you'll be fine."
He couldn't resist calling after her, "Is that the left ridge, left knee, or left hook?!"
His answer was the brittle bang of the door. He dropped back into his seat with a resigned sigh - just as an enthusiastic Harry bounced over to his table.
"Hi, Tom. Fancy a game of Pool? I feel lucky tonight."
"Sure, Harry. As long as I don't have to bring my own balls..." He got up and let Harry lead the way. ".... the Captain seems to have mine in her pocket, again."
It is a mystery how
she's made it through the years
though she's never hurt anyone
she feeds upon our fears
she's watched us come and go
and she's wise to all who plot
don't try to find her,
she'll slip away -
The Lady of the Loch.
Kathryn left Sandrines and boarded the nearest turbo-lift.
Why had she ever let it get this far?! Now B'Elanna was involved
too. Her Chief Engineer had eyes ; she couldn't fail to see how forced and polite they'd been with each other lately, or how quiet Chakotay had been and how tired he looked. She'd already decided to talk to him, but now it looked like B'Elanna was going to beat her to it. Why couldn't her caring, interfering crew just mind their own business!
The lift doors opened and she heard raised voices - muffled by distance, but becoming clearer and louder, the closer she got to Chakotay's quarters. She stopped outside his door, B'Elanna's loud, unmistakeable voice staying her hand over the door chime.
".... I miss 'you'. I miss my friend! You're so quiet sometimes I forget you're there. I can't even remember the last time I heard you tell a joke or laugh... I mean, really roar with laughter the way you used to, or just curse up a blue-storm because you've banged your head on a tube-frame. It's been months since you hummed those awful, sappy songs or whistled as you walked around the ship, too!"
As she listened to B'Elanna rant, Kathryn suddenly realised that she'd
missed those things about him, too. Then Chakotay was shouting.
"I can't be 'just one of the boys' anymore B'Elanna! I have to keep
a certain distance. You know how Starfleet Officers have to be. The 'Fleet half of this crew expects it and they're uncomfortable with anything else!"
"That's bull and you know it! You've only been this way since we faced off against the Borg. You've only been this way since she used your feelings and friendship to try and manipulate you. Gods, that was a move worthy of Seska! She would have been so proud...."
"B'Elanna, just go! Go, before I pick you up and throw you out!"
"No! Not until you've heard a few home truths. At least you know that Seska was working to an agenda - one planned long before she even met you. This woman is supposed to be your best friend and ex-lover all rolled into one. Oh don't look so shocked, Chakotay. I guessed the truth about New Earth the day you got back. Any fool could see how awkward and uncomfortable you were - both of you went decks out of your way to avoid brushing up against each other. It was obvious what had happened and it was just as obvious that it was over!"
"B'Elanna, I love you like a sister, but so help me...!"
"Shut-up! Shut-up and listen for once in your life! You said that you don't need her to apologise. I don't believe you, Chakotay. It's just easier to let her hide from her fears and protect her feelings. Well, what about yours?! They count too and you deserve that apology. Until you get it, this wedge between you is just going to get wider...."
"Think on this, Chakotay. Kathryn needs to make that apology as
much as you need to hear it. Have you looked at her lately - really looked at her? Have you noticed the dark circles under her eyes? They're a doozy of a match for yours! Do you think she'd be losing so much sleep over this, if she didn't care? Spirits, if it wasn't so tragic, it'd be hilarious. Two exhausted people on either side of a dividing wall - thumping lumps out of their pillows, chasing peace of mind and sleep!"
At that moment, Kathryn was distracted by other voices - a little way off down the corridor, but getting nearer. All at once, Chakotay roared something at B'Elanna, the door swished open and she stormed out almost knocking Kathryn over.
B'Elanna was shaking with barely suppressed fury. She advanced on Kathryn and growled through gritted teeth, "That...that p'tahk... that big, stubborn idiot is probably going to throw me in the brig for this, so as long as I'm on a roll, here's yours! You're a matched pair, do you know that?! Either you two sort this out, once and for all or... or you can find yourselves another best friend and Chief Engineer!" She turned and stomped off down the corridor.
Hands on hips, Kathryn indignantly called after her, "B'Elanna, get back here. Lieutenant Torres...!"
B'Elanna ignored her and flounced on down the corridor, gesturing
wildly and muttering in Klingon.
Kathryn exhaled angrily, rolling her eyes to the ceiling. The sound of someone nervously clearing their throat caused her to turn around. Lieutenant Ayala and Crewman Foster stood watching her. When neither of them said anything, she raised one questioning eyebrow.
"Don't let me keep you from your duties, gentlemen."
They both nodded respectfully and moved past her - Ayala with
confident, steady strides and Foster with more of a quick, side-ways scuttle.
She watched them disappear around the first bend in the corridor and allowed her shoulders to sag. Letting out a heavy, resigned sigh, she pinched the bridge of her nose. She was exhausted, but she had to speak to Chakotay.
She rang his door-chime and the door opened to reveal a complete
shambles ; an up-ended coffee-table, two over-turned chairs, padds and
cushions all over the floor and her First Officer pacing the room in obvious pain, nursing a rapidly swelling hand.
"Chakotay? What on Earth...?!"
"I managed to keep my hands off our mouthy Chief Engineer, but I lost a fight with my chair! That little brat knows exactly which buttons to push! Damn... I think it's broken."
"Sit down on the couch and let me see." She gently lifted his hand. "Can you wiggle your fingers? That's not good... try to make a fist."
He tried, but couldn't. He moaned in pain and she turned away from him -
hot, irrational anger bubbling over. "B'Elanna's right, you are an idiot. I don't need this, Chakotay. I thought I could rely on you of all people to behave! It's not enough that I have to keep over a hundred stroppy, hormonal teenagers in line, now I have to mother you, too. You're supposed to lighten my burdens, remember, not add to them!"
His face flushed with anger, darkening to a deep red. "Thank you
for your help, Captain." He got up off the couch and moved swiftly towards
"Where are you going... I'm not finished with you yet?!"
He didn't even break stride. "Too bad!"
The door slid shut behind him, leaving her alone in the middle of more than one mess.
She will rise from the deep
she will pass by the shore
and then quietly drift
into the mist, so hazy
and then people will come
with their boats and their guns,
but they'll never find our
Lady of the Loch.
Kathryn lay stiffly in her bed desperate to sleep, but unable to. Every little sound caused her to tense further, straining her ears for clues that he was back in his quarters.
"Dammit! Where the hell is he?"
She'd found his communicator under one of the chairs as she righted his over-turned furniture, so he could be anywhere. The Doctor had told her that he'd been to Sick-bay, but he'd left over three hours ago.
"He's probably curled up somewhere warm and cosy, sleeping like
a baby. Computer, lights up."
She threw off the covers and got up, her hair a tangled mess after so much restless tossing and turning. Furiously sweeping it out of her eyes, she grabbed-up her robe and tried to struggle into it. She managed to get one arm in it's sleeve, but the other sleeve was inside-out and try as she might, she couldn't find it. She turned this way and that, trying to see behind her back. Muttering curses, she ripped off the robe - barely resisting the temptation to throw it on the floor and jump all over it - gave it a violent shake and put it back on. Knotting the sash, she slammed into the main room.
"Hot milk with honey and nutmeg."
When the computer informed her that she was out of credits, she
snapped - her own vicious scream of frustration shocking the life out
of her. She stood there, shaking and trying to catch her breath over the huge
lump in her throat, with angry tears blurring her vision. "This is ridiculous!"
It had been months since her last good night's sleep. Was a few hours sleep too
much to ask? If she didn't sleep soon, she'd go crazy!
Wiping her eyes, she crossed to a cupboard and took out a small glass and a large, beautifully curved bottle of amber liquid. She stared at it for a few moments, gently running a hand over it's contours. Her last bottle of genuine Saurian brandy. She'd been saving it for a special occasion.
"Looks like this is it!"
Removing the delicate silver stopper she filled the glass. Still holding the bottle in one hand, she lifted the glass to her lips and shucked the drink down in one. Her eyes filled with tears again - tears of shock this time as her throat caught fire. She re-filled her glass several times and downed each in-one, coughing and spluttering a little less each time. After the sixth glass, she decided that she'd probably had enough to knock-out a stressed Klingon and replaced the silver top.
Going back into her bedroom, she took off her robe and slipped
into bed. Turning slightly, she pummelled and fluffed her pillows before settling down. If the brandy didn't work, nothing would. She'd have to go to Sick-Bay and endure the Doctor's smug lectures about her stress levels and work schedule.
An hour later, she was still as stiff as a board and wide-awake. Yet again, she turned over, searching for a cool place to settle and from nowhere she heard Admiral Paris' voice in her mind. 'Never drink mad, Kathryn. It's a sorry waste of good hooch and good time.'
"Now you remind me!"
She lay there staring into the darkness for a while, thinking about the Captain and the Commander, Chakotay and B'Elanna and finally, Kathryn and Chakotay. She couldn't believe the power he had over her... that inspite of all her safe-guards, he could affect her so deeply.
"Computer, what time is it?"
"The time is 03:30 hours."
She sat up, tiredly scrubbing at her face and with the stirrings of a head-ache already behind her eyes. Just then, she heard a muffled pounding through the wall. So, he was back and he was pillow-thumping. No doubt settling down for a good night's sleep!
"Well, we'll just see about that!"
Snatching up her robe, she struggled into it. She was through her door and standing infront of his before she'd even tied the sash. Entering her over-ride code, she stalked into his darkened quarters.
"Chakotay?!" She crossed to his bedroom and hammered on the door with the palm of her hand. "Chakotay, come out of there!"
There was a muffled curse as something hit the floor, then silence.
Just as she raised her hand to bang again, the door slid open and there he was, dressed in dark blue pjs, silhouetted against the bedroom lights.
"Kathryn, do you know what time it is?"
She was speechless.
"I heard you, dammit! Do I know what time it is? Do I know what time it is? As a matter of fact I do, Chakotay - intimately! Where the hell have you been? I've been lying awake half the night, wondering where you were, worrying if you were alright, or if you'd finally dented that thick skull of yours by falling down a Jeffries ladder!"
"I should have called... Is that my line?" He was trying hard not
She was furious. "Well, I'm glad you think it's so funny, Commander. Let's see how funny you find pulling a double-shift while I catch up on my sleep!"
"Oh, come-on Kathryn. You sound just like an irate wife. Look, I'm sorry about earlier. After B'Elanna wound me up, you caught me at exactly the wrong time." As he spoke, he leaned against the door-frame and light from the bedroom spilled over her face. He was shocked by what he saw. For the first time since they'd argued about the Borg, he was seeing her without clever, concealing make-up in full light. Every wretched, sleepless hour was recorded there - etched around her beautiful blue eyes. Instinctively, he took her face in his hands and half a minute ticked by as he gently tried to smooth away the fine lines with his thumbs. When he spoke, his voice was just above a whisper.
"B'Elanna was right. Is it really so hard for you to say 'sorry', Kathryn? Is this the price you'd rather pay?"
The gentle warmth of his hands and the deep concern on his face were bad enough, but it was the sadness in his voice that pierced her heart. One step took her into his arms and gave her the courage to finally say what she'd been trying to say for months.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. It was unforgivable... I should never have tried to manipulate you like that. I'm sorry for what I said earlier, too - about you adding to my burdens. You help me more than you'll ever know. I couldn't do this alone, not for seventy years... I'd go under."
He kissed the top of her head and coaxed her chin up until she was looking at him. "Anyone would. Apology accepted." He smiled at her, fussing with her hair and tucking it behind her ears. "Kathryn..." he paused, weighing his words carefully, still fussing with her
"Yes?" When he still didn't speak she captured his hands and sighed. "Just say it, Chakotay."
"Alright. I've missed you... I've missed our friendship. When I left Sickbay tonight, I went to the holodeck and walked for miles. I did a lot of thinking and well... if this is all there can ever be between us, then that's fine. I'll never forget what we had on New Earth, Kathryn. Loving you, being with you... it was the happiest time of my life, but it's time I let it go,
like you have. It belongs in the past, so I'm going to stop pining and move on. I'll concentrate on making our friendship work again... on the here and now."
Her eyes searched his face. "Move on...?"
"Yes. It's past time that I did."
Shock and panic washed over her. "But, I... I.... Who...?"
" 'Who'? It was B'Elanna. She got me thinking. Your friendship means everything to me and I finally realised that_____"
The tide of panic reached her throat and she forced the words
out in a rush, between clenched teeth. "No, I meant Who's going to love me?!"
She couldn't seem to stop shaking. "If you don't love me anymore, then who will?!"
His smile was a little confused. "I won't stop loving you, Kathryn... it'll just be a different sort of love."
"No, I mean... you just can't, Chakotay. You can't stop loving me."
"But I thought that was what you wanted?"
"That was when I thought it would never happen!"
It was his turn to be speechless. He just stared at her, trying to take in what she was saying. Finally, he shook his head, trying to clear it. "I think I need a drink." He went to move past her, but she still held his hands and didn't seem able to let go. "Kathryn... my hands?"
Her reactions were a little slow and uncoordinated. "What?"
"I need my hands back. Glancing at her confused, befuddled expression, he sighed. "Never mind, just come with me." He guided her across the room to the replicator. "Do you want something?"
"Brandy... Saurian brandy. I'd better stick with that."
He did a double take. "You've been drinking Saurian brandy? How much have
"Five or six... maybe seven glasses, I forget. It was my last bottle. I was
so mad at you and so desperate to sleep."
"Well, no wonder!"
"No wonder what?"
"No wonder you're a little spaced-out... it's kicking in!" He sighed and turned back to the replicator. "One Saurian brandy in a clear glass, one synthehol version in a coloured glass." The drinks materialised and he smiled patiently at her. "Let my hands go and pick up your drink, Kathryn - the coloured glass. Good, now go and sit down."
She did as she was told, totally missing the huge grin that lit his face and his bemused, "Saurian brandy, eh?"
He sat beside her on the couch and they sipped their drinks in silence for a while. Finally, he said, "What do you really want, Kathryn? Do you just want to go back to the way things were between us, before the Borg?"
She gazed at him for a long moment and just when he was beginning
to think that the brandy had kicked all the way in, she put her glass down on the coffee-table, sat back and laid her head on his left shoulder.
"Right now, I'm not sure what I want. I'm so tired..." She yawned behind her hand. "I only know how I felt when you said it was time for you to move on." Another Yawn over-took her. "I only know, that I don't want you to. You've been there for so long, just quietly loving me, always ready to catch me if I fall and show me different ways to succeed. I've had the courage to try so many things because of you... just knowing you were there. Maybe that's why I flipped when we argued over the Borg. Until then, we'd always agreed or compromised on everything, worked as a strong team and I was... oh, too secure in that I guess. Suddenly, just when I needed it most, my one constant... my one reliable support wasn't just gone, he was opposing me. It was a shock." She stifled another yawn and made herself more comfortable, slipping her left arm around his waist.
He kissed the top of her head and smiled into her hair. "Any good friend could do those things, Kathryn. Is that all I mean to you? Is that what you don't want to lose... or is it 'me'."
She tried hard to picture somebody else by her side, but she couldn't. What they shared was unique. A wonderful alchemy... a special bond forged through earned mutual respect, admiration, trust, a genuine liking for each other, shared laughter, their time alone on New Earth and of course, love. A brief, but powerful and explosive love that she'd dutifully packed away in her wish-box by the time they'd rejoined Voyager. At first, it had refused to stay in the box. It had escaped quite a few times, but each time, her sense of duty and her anxiety about Command protocol had hunted it down, caught it and pushed it back - deeper and deeper into the box. Over time, it got jostled, squashed and buried under so many other things, it rarely made it to the surface. Tonight had been one of those rare occasions. She could see where it had got close enough to the surface to rattle the lid. Her irrational anger at him for hurting himself might as well have had flags and flashing lights all over it. And as for lying awake frantically worrying about where he was and what he was doing.... Yes, the love was still there, hidden from everyone - including herself. Rarely above the surface, more often below and out of sight, out of mind, but it was there. Unfortunately, those ever-watchful doubts, anxieties and fears were still there too, watching, waiting... holding down the lid. If only she could...
"What? Oh, I'm sorry."
"You were gone a while. What were you thinking?"
She tilted her head on his shoulder and smiled up at him. "Let's just say I have a lot of sympathy for Pandora."
"Pandora? As in Pandora's Box - the girl who's curiosity got the better of her? The one who unleashed calamity, monsters, dark-elves and other 'things that go bump in the night' on the World?"
"That's the one. Did she contaminate Paradise, or did she do us a favour by adding calamity, fear, mystery and magic to the mix?"
"I'm not sure," he mused. "Calamity is never pleasant and fear holds us back. It can be a safety-valve though and stop us hurting ourselves." He grinned back at her
and patted her arm. "Personally, I think life would be pretty dull without mystery and magic. You scientists and doubters are a pretty boring lot sometimes... always disproving the existance of this and that. Spoiling it for us hopeless romantics."
She suddenly clicked her fingers with a start. "Hope!"
"What about it?"
"You just reminded me.... Hope was one of the things the Gods had put in the box. Pandora managed to slam the lid back down before Hope could escape."
"So, she gave mankind all that other stuff... wonderful monsters, legends and things to scare ourselves silly, but she also gave us eternal Hope?"
"Yes. I suppose Hope allows us to try doesn't it... to take risks. Without it, we'd all be paralysed by the two-headed monster of doubt and fear. Too scared to even try."
He began to see where she was going. "And just what is it that scares Kathryn Janeway the most?"
She took a deep breath and looked into his eyes. "Right now... losing you to
someone else." Her left hand shyly crept up to caress his face and she smiled softly. "Not just losing my friend and my safety net, but losing 'You'. I do love you... my love's been a bit crushed and creased since we got back, but it's still here, Chakotay."
She whispered her last words against his lips, just as her arm slipped up around his neck and his mouth claimed hers.
She will rise from the deep
she will pass by the shore
and then quietly drift
into the mist, so hazy
and then people will come
with their boats and their guns
but they'll never find our
Lady of the Loch.