The Discovery Of Bitter Things

by Suz

Disclaimer - Paramount own the characters. Pah!

Set after the events in 'The Mutilation Of...'


"Seven, you're fidgiting again."

"I apologise Commander. I am still not accustomed to sitting in this manner."

"Then don't."

"I wish to remain here. I will simply need to concentrate more."

Turning away from his sand painting he studied the woman who was sitting cross-legged on the ground next to him.

The holoprogramme they were in now was the same one they had visited the last five times, having both decided it was their favourite. It was Chakotay's favourite, anyway. Seven described it as aesthetically pleasing which was really quite a compliment.

"The whole point of this exercise is to relax. How many times have I told you that?"

A quick calculation was performed in her head, but Chakotay held out his hand to stop her from speaking.


"Don't what?"

"You were about to tell me exactly how many times I've told you to relax."

"Yes, but that is what you asked."

"It was a rhetorical question."

Apparently understanding she turned her head back towards her project.

The Commander had introduced her to sand painting three weeks ago, but frustrated at her lack of progress she had asked him for alternatives. Painting was decided on.

She wasn't particular good at that either but did find using a brush on paper more constructive than sprinkling grains of sand everywhere. However, as her gaze once again fell on the Commanders work, she couldn't help but notice his efficient use of the materials involved.

"You are obviously experienced Commander."

Still looking at his work he tilted his head to one side slightly and she suspected that he was blushing. He tugged at his ear with his hand. "I beg your pardon?"

"You appear to be experienced with sand painting."

He looked extraordinarily relieved about something. "Oh. Yes. Didn't I tell you about that?" When she shook her head negatively he continued. "It was actually something that my mother taught me, and one of the few things I've continued to do from childhood to present day. I've had a lot of years to practice."

Seven frowned lightly as a thought occured. "I have been on board this vessel for four years. I have never seen you participate in this activity before we started our creative exercises on the holodeck."

Chakotay smirked, still finding the term 'creative exercises' funny for some damn reason. "I guess it has been a while. Must be about...five and a half years since I last made one."

"That is an extremely long amount of time-" She stopped talking as she noticed what he was doing. Starting at the top of the sand he was slowly dragging his finger through the picture. "Commander, you are damaging your work."

Pausing mid-way, he moved his finger in a small circle, watching the different coloured sands shift. "Everything gets damaged at some point Seven." Seeming to realise what he had said, he sighed and pulled his finger away from the picture. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to sound so depressing."

"Perhaps we should discontinue this conversation. It is clearly distressing you."

"No. I want to tell you since no one else will."

She angled her head to one side slightly, curious. "Tell me what?"

He shook his head. "Where to begin?"

"The begin-"

"-ning would be a relevant starting place." he finished, and they both smiled gently. "Very well. The beginning it is. It's been a while since I told a story." Realising she probably wouldn't get the reference, he continued. "A little over five and half years ago, the Captain and I were trapped on a planet together. It was a beautiful M-Class world. Green, healthy, vibrant. But it contained something deadly that infected both of us. It was only after we beamed back to Voyager that we became ill, violently so. It was discovered that something in the planet's atmosphere was preventing us from dying, so we would have to stay there for the rest of our lives. The crew did everything they could to help us, but eventually they had to continue their journey home. The Captain and I would have to make a new home, the only sentient beings on a beautiful orb."

Seven remained silent.

"In the end we spent several months there, living together, working together. Our only other companion turned out to be a primate who had the best timing in the entire Universe...but that's another story. One night after we'd cleared the debris from a plasma storm, the Captain complained that her shoulders were aching so I offered to give her a...hand, so to speak. My mother used to say I was very good with my hands." He smiled at the memory.

"She is correct," Seven stated, then almost seemed embarrassed that she had said it.

That broke his concentration. "How would you know?"

Carefully maintaining an air of indifference, she lifted her chin. "I have been studying your hands over the past few weeks as you work. You have extraordinary dexterity for a human male of your age."

Taking that as a compliment, he spoke. "Thank you."

"So you were giving the Captain a shoulder massage..." she prompted.

"Yes," he told her quietly "and it was fine to begin with. But I began to notice things. Things I hadn't allowed myself to notice before. She had the most gorgeous hair Seven - it used to be much longer than it is now. I began to take everything in - her hair, her scent, the way she breathed."

"You fell in love with her."

Staring at the sand, a small smile appeared on his lips. "I don't know if it was at that moment, but yes, I fell in love with her." Reaching out his hand he began to play with the sand again. "That same night I told her I had feelings for her in the guise of a story. She was surprised, but apparently accepting. She didn't reciprocate and I didn't expect her to, it was just enough to be with her and see that she was happy. Of course, a little while later we were rescued." Stopping, he looked at the mess he had created.

Seven frowned. "That is the end of your story?"

He shrugged. "More or less."

"Then you and the Captain never became intimately involved?"

Chakotay spoke softly. "No. We never became anything more than friends."

"Why has no one ever mentioned this?"

"That's just it - I don't know! It's like the whole thing never happened. It's become such a taboo subject that I doubt anyone else but me still thinks about it."

"Most curious," she stated. "Are you still in love with her?"

He was silent for a long time before responding. "I don't know. There are times when I absolute hate her. She has changed so much and so radically from the woman I knew on the planet. But still...if she asked me to calculate all the stars in the Universe just to make her smile I'd do it, no matter how long it took. Pretty pathetic, really."

The ex-Borg studied his expression even as he tried to hide it. "No. Human emotions may often be irrational, but they are never pathetic."

Moving her gaze once more she looked at her painting. It had been completed since before he had started telling his story and she thought that he might appreciate seeing it. While they had been working she noticed that he was being careful not to look at it, granting her the privacy she had been unable to give him. "Commander, I would like you to have my painting."

"I would be honoured Seven, thank-" his words of gratitude died as he looked at her completed work. "Is that who I think it is?"

"Yes." The bodies of the figures were little more than stick people, but it was obvious who it was meant to be. Him and Kathryn. "Perhaps I am...psychic."

Chakotay doubted it.

Standing up she declared that it was time for her to leave. "Thank you for an interesting evening."

He continued to stare at the painting. "You're welcome Seven."

"And Commander..."


"If you ever want to know how many stars there are in the Universe, all you need to do is ask."


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