"While You Were Sleeping"
Setting: Anytime post "The Q & The Gray"
Disclaimer: Paramount and the ViaBorg own all the characters taking part, but the story is mine - all mine! I'm not making any money off this, just having some fun.
Summoned to Sickbay from the Bridge, Kathryn handed over to Tuvok and quickly boarded the turbo-lift. When the lift stopped and the doors swished open, she hit the deck running. Not very Captain-like, but right now she just didn't give a damn.
After briefly composing herself just outside the doors, she walked into the Doctor's domain and found her First Officer asleep in a chair, his head and shoulders slumped on one side of B'Elanna's bio-bed. One of B'Elanna's pale hands was draped over his shoulders and the back of his neck, the other was clutched in both his darker ones.
Seeing her enter, the Doctor left his office. Keeping his voice low, he explained that B'Elanna had finally regained consciousness ten minutes ago, that her head and neck injuries had been repaired and that she was recovering and sleeping naturally.
"And, Commander Chakotay?"
"He really isn't my patient, but as it's you Captain I will report. He's been here during all of his off-duty time over the last two days. He's been here for four hours today and he was here for a total of six hours yesterday, just talking to her - talking 'at' her - about things that happened when they were in the Maquis, what's been happening on the ship, and strangely, rather a lot about you, Captain? When he isn't talking he's dozing, but he really needs deep R.E.M. sleep. Perhaps Captain, now that Miss. Torres is out of danger you could order him to his quarters and unclutter my sickbay - before I decide to tidy him away into a stasis drawer, or something."
Trying not to smile, Kathryn managed, "Thank you Doctor, I'll do that small thing for you. Could you inform Mr. Tuvok that B'Elanna is out of danger, so he can notify the rest of the ship. Oh, and let him know I won't be back to the Bridge tonight... by the time I get there, it'll be time to turn around and go back to my quarters."
"Of course, Captain."
Turning smartly on his heel, the Doctor returned to his office.
Moving to the bio bed, Kathryn looked down at B'Elanna with tears of relief stinging her eyes. Silently giving thanks to any and all gods, she gently brushed her friends damp, tousled hair back from her face before turning her attention to Chakotay. She smiled fondly. This was so like him. Reaching across B'Elanna she touched his arm ready to gently shake him awake, but he woke up the instant she touched him.
"Sshhh, Chakotay... it's alright, B'Elanna's fine. She's regained consciousness and the Doctor says that she's out of danger. She's sleeping naturally, which is what you should be doing. Come-on, I'll walk you to your quarters."
She saw his own look of relief and his quick glance at B'Elanna's face before he smiled and said, "I'm fine here, Kathryn - really. I'll stay until she wakes-up again."
Before he had time to dig his heels in, Kathryn drew herself up to her height, put her hands on her hips and gave him her best 'That's an order, Mister' look. "Do you want to fight about this here, over B'Elanna, or are you going to come quietly?"
Chakotay winced. He knew that look and that tone of voice well after running into them countless times over the last three and a half years. He knew it was pointless trying to argue with her, but he'd never been one to surrender outright. He always went for a compromise. Where Kathryn was concerned, lots of little gains eventually added up to equal one outright win.
"I'll leave on one condition," he smiled tiredly. "Buy me a drink. Brandy, if you've got it?"
Smiling and shaking her head in exasperation because she knew exactly what he'd just done, Kathryn decided to let him get away with it - just this once. Anything, if it meant he'd get some quality sleep. "Okay, let's go. I think I have some Cognac stashed at the back of a cupboard."
Chakotay gently removed B'Elanna's hand from his neck, untangled the rest of his fingers from hers and stood up, grimmacing at his stiff, protesting muscles. Leaning over the bed, he kissed her lightly on the forehead, smoothed her hair and said quietly, "I'll see you later, Trouble." Turning back to Kathryn he noticed that her face was very soft and she had that dewey look around the eyes that she sometimes got when she was upset.
"Are you alright, Kathryn?"
"Oh, yes... I'm just relieved she's going to be okay. She scared me there for a while. Are you alright, Chakotay - and don't lie to me?"
"I am now," he sighed, stroking B'Elanna's wrist. "I am now. Just lead me to that Cognac and a few hours sleep and I'll be as good as new."
Chakotay sank down onto the couch with a groan as Kathryn found the cognac and collected two balloon glasses from a side-table. Joining him on the couch, she poured two drinks and handed him one.
He smiled, gratefully. "Thank you." Taking a swallow he shuddered and squirmed violently, and closed one eye. "Urghh! I thought you said this was Cognac? It's a bit raw isn't it?"
She chuckled. "Sorry. I forgot to mention that it's Talaxian Cognac, not French. Give it a chance though - it either kills you outright or it grows on you."
"I think I've been had."
"Chakotay, you need to sleep properly now. Besides, I had to get you out of Sickbay. The Doctor was threatening to put you in a stasis drawer because you were making Sickbay look untidy. Will dinner in lieu make amends? How about tomorrow night, say 1930HRS back here?"
"I suppose so," Chakotay mock-grimmaced. I'll be here as soon as I've said goodnight to B'Elanna."
They were quiet for a few moments as they sipped their drinks, both lost in private thoughts about their favourite Chief Engineer. Chakotay broke the silence.
"Has Tuvok completed his investigation? Does anyone know how B'Elanna received such a massive head injury?"
"Yes, and yes. We worked it out while you were asleep on Teddy-Bear duty."
He gave her a quizzical look.
She chuckled and looked apologetic. "I'm sorry, but that's what you looked like to me when I first walked into Sickbay... a big, gruff teddy-bear tucked under her arm, ready to frighten away monsters. It was sweet."
With another look that dared her to say anything more about "Sweet" he tutted, "Very funny.
Now, what happened?"
Her smile faded and her mood became sombre. "It was a freak accident, Chakotay. She was working on a problem with one of the upper level warp core monitor stations. The station shorted and exploded, and the force of the explosion catapulted her backwards into the trolley lift- shaft. Unfortunately, the lift itself was at the ground floor level. She was supposed to wait for Hendricks to come back with an over-ride capacitor before she started, but you know B'Elanna. Hendricks would have ridden the trolley lift back up to the upper level...."
"Of all the stupid, bone-headed, Klingon Idiots! When she's recovered - when she's fit enough, I'm going to bounce her all over the ship!"
"Uh-uh. You'll be first in line behind your Captain. These pips give me first dibbs on bouncing our 'Klingon Idiot'."
Their eyes met, they smiled warmly at each other and clinked glasses - both acknowledging the worry and deep affection the other one felt for the pale young woman asleep in sick-bay.
"You love her very much, don't you Chakotay?"
He didn't answer right away, but sat staring into his glass with a wistful look on his face.
"Yes, I do. From the moment I met her she reminded me of my sister. Later though, she worked that special B'Elanna magic on me and got under my skin. You know what I mean, don't you?"
"Oh, yes. She's used it to great effect on me too. It's all the more charming because she's not even aware that she's doing it."
He nodded in agreement and took a wary sip of his drink. Looking straight at her, he smiled that warm, sunshine smile. "I have a weakness for beautiful, temperamental women."
Kathryn smiled at the back-handed compliment. "How did you two meet? You've never talked about it."
"I've never liked to. I thought B'Elanna would want to tell you herself, when she was ready. I don't suppose she'd mind if I told you now though - you've become good friends over the years." Pausing to take another sip of his drink, he said, "You're right... this stuff does grow on you. Well, let's see. I'd been with the Maquis for quite a while and I was told to meet a sympathiser on a small planet inside Cardassian territory. He had a consignment of hand weapons for us. In order to arrange the pickup I had to meet him in some dive in the centre of a large city. On my way there, I got lost and turned down an alley with a dead end sign. Turning to re-trace my steps, I heard a scream and a male voice cursing in Cardassian. Immediately after, I heard a female scream and Klingon cursing - then, more male Cardassian voices laughing and shouting. I could still hear the Klingon female too though... madder than a spitting cobra!
"Further down the alley I found a young Cardassian of about seventeen or eighteen
rolling around in agony with a knife hilt coming out of his shoulder. He was the one cursing up a storm. Behind him, there were five more young Cardassians, slowly advancing on a young Klingon girl - they were boxing her in, driving her towards the end of the alley, but she wasn't going without a fight. Every time one of them came within range, she lashed out at him with a piece of metal piping and her feet. She was good, too.
"Looking at her, seeing her properly, I realised that she was only half-Klingon. Her clothes were torn, a gash above her right eye was bleeding badly, and I could see that she was tiring. I also realised that the Cardassians weren't trying to kill her. They were taunting her, telling her about the fun and games they had in mind."
Kathryn's eyes widened in disbelief and shock. Their eyes met and Chakotay
took her hand in his and squeezed, gently.
"I couldn't risk using my phaser because there were discharge detectors everywhere. One shot would set them off and bring every Cardassian within hearing distance down on top of us. So, I backed-up and ran as hard, and as fast as I could, and launched myself at the three Cardassians who were standing closest together. There are advantages to being my height and build. Suddenly all four of us were in a heep on the ground. Having the advantage of surprise, I was up first. They were young and green when it came to fighting dirty, so I swung a few body punches, kicked a few faces and then suddenly, they weren't coming back for more ; they were all out cold. I swung around expecting to see the other two coming for me, but they were down too - the girl had taken them on herself. She was straddled over one of them, repeatedly stabbing him with his own knife, screaming, "Nobody touches me, nobody touches me!" over and over. Stupidly, I made the mistake of touching her. I grabbed her shoulder, trying to tell her that we had to get away. Next thing I knew, I was flying through the air! I landed flat on my back with the knife to my throat."
Sipping at his drink some more he smiled grimly. "I managed to yelp something about only trying to help her and she shook the blood out of her eyes and did a double-take, realising that I wasn't a Cardassian. She laughed and said "This is no time to be taking a nap! We've got to get out of here!" She helped me to my feet and we left the alley. We'd only been moving for about five minutes before all sorts of alarms went off, so I decided to forget about meeting my contact. We got to the beam-out site with seconds to spare. Once aboard my ship, we concentrated on leaving orbit and heading back to the nearest Maquis hide-out.
"Later, while my medic patched her up, she told me that her name was B'Elanna Torres, she was seventeen years old and that she'd just escaped from the local Cardassian prison - the 'boys' had been sent after her, but they'd decided not to take her straight back... to have a little fun first. She'd originally been abducted from an Earth-Ship bound for DS9, but they'd been boarded and arrested as soon as they entered Cardassian space. She told me about crashing out of the Academy - and why. You know all about that though.
"That evening I dropped by the quarters assigned to her to see if she was okay. I found her curled up in a ball on the floor, and the room trashed. She was a wreck, too. Delayed shock I think. We talked and I realised she had no purpose in life and nowhere to go, so I asked her to consider joining the Maquis - where she saved my ship and my life more times than I can remember. The rest as they say, is history."
Kathryn was stunned. She couldn't find the words, and barely found her voice.
"Thank you. For what you did, and for telling me."
"Is there anymore of this delicious Cognac left?"
"For the hero of the hour, anything."
"Anything?" he asked with a roguish smile.
"Don't push it, Chakotay," she chuckled. "I already have a handsome teddy-bear in my bed. I don't have room for another one."
His face was a picture. "The most I'd ever hope for is a kiss, but you're kidding right?
Captain Kathryn Janeway has a teddy-bear? Does he have a name? How many light-years has he clocked up? Maybe if I challenged him to a fight, I could take his place?" He couldn't help himself, he started to laugh.
Kathryn watched him, patiently waiting for him to stop. When he'd calmed down enough to hear her she tutted, "I wish I hadn't told you now. If I ever hear Paris say 'Teddy-Bear' I'll know where he got it from and I'll snap you back so hard."
"Not one word, I promise. Teddy-bear's honour." He was obviously fighting hard to keep a straight face.
"Teddy-bear's honour is a very serious thing, Chakotay. So, I'll tell you. I've had him since I was born, but I only fell in love with him when I was three years old. I was ill with Zibalian 'flu and he was always there waiting to hug me when I woke up. He's called Honey-bear, he's been in space as long as I have, and no, before you ask, you can't meet him because he's very shy with strangers. He's been cried over and hugged so much over the years all of his honey-coloured fur has fallen out. He's got mismatched button eyes and he's lost his lovely growl. He still gives a mean hug though and he still frightens away monsters. Still want to challenge him?"
Chakotay gave a low whistle. "I think I know when I'm beaten."
They shared a grin, and after Kathryn had refreshed their glasses they quietly discussed re-jigging the duty-roster so he could get some extra sleep the next morning. She insisted on taking his morning duty-shift and after only a little arguing and a few threats, he wisely gave in.
Twenty minutes later, Kathryn realised that she'd been talking to herself for a while - his head was tilted back against the couch, his eyes were closed and his breathing was becoming deep and regular. "Talaxian Cognac - gets 'em everytime." She drawled.
Quietly calling for the computer to dim the lights, she finished her own drink as she watched him slipping into a deeper sleep, his glass still clutched to his chest. There was just enough light coming from the starfield outside the windows for her to see his face ; smooth and untroubled now that he knew B'Elanna was safe. And far too handsome.
Kathryn Janeway, you need your head examined, she thought as her hand reached out to almost, but not quite, touch his right temple.
He had a definite talent for making her laugh and helping her to relax. He flirted with her outrageously when they were alone, and she had to work so hard to keep him at arms length, she'd often forget to look behind the teasing and remember the depth of his feelings for her. He'd loved her deeply and unselfishly for such a long time in spite of everything she'd ever said about Command Protocols and defining parameters ; in spite of every argument and excuse she'd ever spouted. He did an amazing job in helping her to run the ship too, taking huge amounts of work off her desk, handling petty arguments among the crew more forcefully than she could and leaving her free to concentrate on more urgent matters and her scientific projects.
Sitting here now bathed in starlight, watching him sleep with no-one else around to see, she could once again let down the barriers and admit to herself that she loved him. She'd loved him for a long time.
After seeing him with B'Elanna earlier and hearing him talk about her, she also saw with a bright, new clarity what it truely meant to be loved and cherished by this man. He didn't give his love easily, but once he had it was constant and steadfast.
Seska? Yes, he'd loved Seska once, but she'd killed that love stone-dead herself, as surely as if she'd plunged a knife into his heart.
And Riley? Riley was an unknown. Not easily labelled. They'd both avoided talking about her. Maybe if she'd accepted his invitation to join them on Voyager for the journey home... who knew what might have been? She'd have to ask him about Riley one day. One day, when she had the courage. One day, when she found a way to square-up duty, responsibility and love.
Smiling to herself, she reached out again and this time she gently stroked the side of his face. He was warm, and so beautifully 'male'... all angled planes, soft skin and rough stubble. With a jolt of sadness, she realised just how much she'd missed this kind of 'touch'... touching a loved one in skin to skin contact. Not sexually - although she missed that, too - but something as simple as touching a face like this, or holding a hand on a walk in warm sunshine or Spring rain.
An encouraging hand on an Ensign's uniformed shoulder was something else entirely.
As she moved her fingers to softly trace the lines of his tattoo, he stirred slightly in his sleep, muttered something incomprehensible and began to snore softly. Only half-suppressing a chuckle she remembered their time on New Earth ; lying awake at night in her own little room,
listening to him in his as he moaned in his sleep and called her name. Sometimes, the temptation to just go to him had been overwhelming. And then, just as she'd started to give in to the idea of 'them', they'd been rescued.
Gradually easing the glass out of his hand, she placed it on the coffee-table next to her own, got up quietly and went to a cupboard. Taking out a pillow and a blanket she returned to the couch. Laying the pillow on one end, she gently eased his head and shoulders down onto it, but he stirred awake.
"What is it? Is B'Elanna okay?"
"Sshh, B'Elanna's fine. Go back to sleep."
After pulling off his boots she carefully lifted his legs and feet up onto the couch and covered him with the blanket. Gathering up their glasses and the bottle, she put the glasses into the recycler and returned the cognac bottle to its cupboard. Drawn back to the couch, she watched him for a while. When she was sure he was asleep she knelt down, gazed at his face and smoothed her fingers lightly through the hair at his temple. After a moments hesitation, she leaned forward and very gently brushed her lips over his. Once, twice... three times.
B'Elanna Torres was a very lucky lady. But then, so was she.
Smiling, she murmured "Thank you for loving me, Chakotay."
Rising to her feet she tucked the blanket up over his shoulder, then walked towards her bedroom and some much needed sleep.
When he heard her bedroom door swish shut, Chakotay opened his eyes and smiled.
"You're welcome, Kathryn."
On to part 2