“Oh... shit,” he groaned, not now, not again. He knew the
crew meant well, but being stuck with his captain in the lift this morning
was just too much to bear.
They had just gone ten rounds in the protocol ring again...last night!
The crew could not know what had transpired the night before. The Captain and First Officer were nothing if not adept at hiding their feelings. Everything seemed copacetic on the bridge. Chakotay should have realized they were up to something when both officer’s presence was requested below decks. They just never gave up. Any other time the whole scenario would have amused the Commander; but his heart, not to mention his ego, was still smarting from the tongue lashing he had received last night from his beautiful, complicated, unpredictable captain.
Janeway would not even look at him. She owed him an apology. She had gone way beyond judicious reprimanding with the Commander. One moment they were enjoying a joke, and the next they were at each other’s throat. And now, she realized, he was distressed to even be in the same room with her.
Turbolifts were small, insular; which, she reminded herself, made them the stuff of legends in Starfleet lore. Somehow, she and her first officer got stuck in the lift just a little too often to chalk up to coincidence. She decided she would get to the bottom of this when and if her crew ever let her out of this goddamn lift.
She chanced a glance at her first officer. When had their relationship come to this? He obviously wanted out of the lift, he wanted out real bad. He was not amused in the least that the crew trapped them for perhaps the 12th time just this year. Usually he was so light-hearted; joking, making her laugh.
God...she hated that he was unhappy. All she wanted to do was get the goddamn ship home... then she could worry about her and him. She realized how unfair that sounded.
The Commander loved her. She loved him. He knew it. That was why he became so enraged at her last night. If she would spurn him completely, he could at least move on with his life. Knowing that Kathryn loved him and would not acknowledge that love drove him to distraction on most days. On days like yesterday, he just wanted to crawl away and lick his wounds: yet here he was, stuck with Kathryn in a small space for spirits knew how long. He could not hold back the lone tear that started to fall from the corner of his eye.
Oh, Christ, Janeway thought, now I have really done it; made a Starfleet Commander cry, for God’s sake. What would it take to make a man like Chakotay cry.
Well, she had her answer. Throw him on the other side of the galaxy with a AAA Bitch, make him an offer he can’t refuse, flirt non-stop with him for over five years, then slap him down hard if he makes a serious pass at you.
She remembered the first time she met him, remembered his body pressed to hers. She could feel his rage, his bitterness at being betrayed, the heat from his body as she blocked his advance with her own, small resolute body. They had glared into each other’s eyes, only to be met with the mirrored amazement at the chemistry generated between them. Janeway knew at that moment she had lost her heart. Only years of conditioning allowed her to back off, suppress those feelings, comport herself as a Starfleet Captain.
She trembled at the memory. God... she had fallen in love so hard, free-fallen all those years ago.
Chakotay read her body language. This was difficult for her too. He wanted to comfort her, to tell her that everything was OK between them. Nothing would dissuade him from waiting for her, but he was just too injured, too raw right now to even make an overture. He was always the one to capitulate, always the one to make the first move toward reconciliation.
Let’s face it, he thought to himself, you are just too goddamn scared to chance talking about the “problem.” Pansy, coward, he derided himself; don’t even deserve her...Christ, she deserves a real man, not someone who cries because he is stuck in a turbolift. He drew in a deep breath, his chest constricting with the effort, his breath catching. Janeway could not ignore that sound. She turned to face him.
He was mortified that she would see him so vulnerable. He was actually afraid she would start ranting, raving as she had the night before when he placed a kiss on her cheek. They were so happy. They had enjoyed an evening together, the captain had been flirting shamelessly. Chakotay had told a joke he particularly liked. “Behind every successful man,” he had mugged with a twinkle in his eye, “was a surprised mother-in-law!”
Janeway had laughed with abandon. It was the most natural thing in the world for him to kiss her. Janeway had been surprised at first, then she just went ballistic.
“Chakotay,” she sighed.
“Kathryn, please, not now...I just can’t do this.”
“I’m trying to apologize!”
What was the old saying his sister used to taunt him.. oh yes, he remembered. “It just doesn’t matter.” he blurted out. The bitter part of him relishing the hurt look on her face. “You’re sorry, I’m sorry, everybody is sorry...doesn’t make it hurt any less.”
“Chakotay, how are we ever going to get beyond this? We can’t go on hurting each other like this day after day.”
She was not going to let this alone, he thought morosely. “Kathryn... today I’m not handling this too well, but most days I don’t want to get beyond it. I would rather be next to you, with you madder than hell at me than not be with you at all.” He shook his head. He couldn’t believe he was going to try this, put himself out there for her to reject him yet again. He could not seem to suppress his need to convince her to come to him, share a life together. It was his main goal in life. He didn’t really give a shit if they made it back to the alpha quadrant. Everything he really wanted was encompassed in his small universe called Voyager. I am so pathetic, he thought with self loathing, any other man would have the balls to cut his losses... move on. He hesitated, wondering if he should indeed continue. He risked much!
“There is an ancient legend among my people.”
Janeway groaned. She could not suppress a small lopsided smile.
Chakotay’s heart leapt at that smile. God, what this woman could do to him.
“I know what you’re thinking. I promise you, I’m not making this up.”
“Chakotay,” she sighed. “OK, let’s hear it.”
“It’s about a young warrior,” he hesitated just a moment for effect, “who left his tribe to wander the earth in search of fortune and adventure. One day he came upon the village of Reshun’. The inhabitants were a brutal, warlike race. They invited the stranger to stay in the village, but the warrior did not trust the villagers. He made his camp outside the village near a peaceful stream. When he awoke, he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever encountered. She was standing at the edge of the water, the sunlight dancing off the stream outlined her body. She turned, smiling shyly, as he approached. The young warrior could not even catch his breath. He loved her, he knew it as surely as he knew his own name. She came to him, caressed his cheek with a delicate hand. They both stood for long moments, just staring at each other. Finally, the young maiden turned and rushed back to the village. The young warrior followed. When they both appeared at the edge of the forest together, the young girl was shackled and dragged to the center of the village. She was sentenced to be stoned. There were too many warriors to fight off, so the young warrior stayed by her side, trying in vain to protect her from the rocks hurled by the enraged villagers. The pile of rocks grew till both were buried, and could no longer be seen. When the villagers came back the next day to clear away the rocks and dispose of the bodies, the rocks were fused, immobile. The two lovers were bound together for eternity. The village became know as Reshun’dru. Reshun’ the village of joined souls.”
“Is that really an ancient legend,” Janeway said skeptically.
“Voyager is our Reshun’dru, Kathryn,” he said, almost regretfully. “Our souls were fused forever that day on your bridge five long years ago. I can no more stop loving you than I can stop breathing. Some days I want to space myself...but most days I am content just to be by your side.”
Janeway raised her hand to caress his face. Her heart belonged to this man. She too had felt the undeniable connection the moment they first met...her kind, fearless, angry warrior.
“Torres to Captain Janeway,” came a tinny voice over the Captain’s communicator.
“Sorry about the holdup, Captain. It seems we blew a few relays when we were testing the capacitors. We’re tracking down the problem now.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant, keep us informed” Janeway said shaking her head, mugging for the Commander.
“Rocks! Relays! Capacitors! I hope we are not destined to stay in this lift for all eternity.” Janeway said with a knowing smile.
“I can think of much worse ways to die,” the Commander said smiling, dimples forming.