Keeping Busy

by Suz suzvoy@tesco.net

Disclaimer - Paramount own 'em.

Part 11 in the DQ90210 series. Earlier parts are located at: http://members.tripod.com/~SuzVoy/deltaq.html

This one definitely relates to part three.

*

He hadn't realised just what a tactical decision it was on B'Elanna's part until later; he hadn't thought his offer of assistance in engineering would result in a trap. Her simple request that he work in Jeffries Tube nineteen had seemed perfectly innocent - until now. It was the ideal place to confront him. Small, cramped, and with no easy escape.

"What the hell are you doing?" She demanded the moment it was obvious there was nowhere for him to get away from her with any particular haste.

Closing his eyes, Chakotay moved the hyper spanner he was holding away from the access panel that he suddenly knew was in perfect working order. He'd thought that B'Elanna was too smart to bring up certain topics of conversation but of course he'd been deluding himself; something he did rarely, but when he did he excelled at it. This confrontation had probably been brewing for a long time.

"Apparently I'm trying to fix an anodine relay that has nothing wrong with it."

Her glare quite clearly expressed that she wasn't amused by his pale attempt at humour.

His eyes closed again.

Pale...

Forcing them open, he sighed. "It's easier this way. For her. For both of us."

She snorted from her half-kneeling position next to him. "You really think that avoiding Seven is what's best for her? You've become closer to her than anyone lately, Chakotay. She needs the connection even if no one likes it."

"I'm not blind B'Elanna. I've seen the way she scrutinises me. I can't give her what she's looking for."

B'Elanna growled. "Then at least give her your friendship." Shaking her head in disbelief she appeared to be resisting the urge to hit him. "Give her that, at least. It's something everyone deserves. I can't believe that you of all people would be avoiding emotions."

He shook his own head and threw the hyper spanner down where it clattered noisily. "I don't want to hurt her."

She laughed. "Isn't that a bit egotistical? Besides, why does it have to be *your* decision? Communication is a two-way street - how many times have you told me something like that?"

Closing his eyes again he lowered his head. Shortly, he smirked.

She studied him, wondering what the hell he found amusing. "What?"

Looking back up at her, the grin intensified, the corners of his eyes crinkling.

"Seven would know. She'd know precisely. If she was here she'd inform us that 'the Commander has stated a variation of that phrase on eighteen separate occasions.'" Noticing that she hadn't said anything, he frowned. "What?"

"You do a freakily good impression of her."

Smirking again, he actually chuckled before growing serious. "Ask you a question?"

"Sure."

"Have you ever cared for someone so much that it actually hurt?"

Startled by his question and the possible revelation of...something...she hesitated. Then answered. "Yes." She didn't specify who.

He nodded, face impassive. "I don't feel that for Seven. But Gods B'Elanna I don't want to hurt her. There have already been so many that I know who have-"

"You don't have to explain that," she whispered. "I'm a Maquis, Chakotay. I understand that all too well. But whether she feels anything for you or not, she is an individual who has her own rights and her own feelings and she shouldn't be ignored. You could just be her first crush."

He rose his eyebrows at that one.

She grinned.

"I've missed you," he said suddenly, surprising both of them. "We hardly have the time to talk anymore."

Her own smile was a little sad. "We'll have to remedy that," she told him, although her expression conveyed that she doubted they actually would.

Chakotay touched her shoulder. "We will."

Uncomfortable with the seriousness of the moment, she began to pull away. "I should really get back to engineering...Kahless only knows what Nicoletti is doing with my dilithium crystals."

Chakotay simply shrugged, allowing her to escape when it felt as if it should be been him.

When she reached the end of the Jeffries Tube he called out her name.

Surprised at the echoed exclamation she spun round as quickly as she could in the tight space. "What is it?"

"Why did you do this? I mean...doing something *nice* for Seven? You've never been friends. You've never been anything."

Laughing in her own silent amusement she turned back around and stepped out into the junction before shouting back "You know what they say, Chakotay..." and disappearing.

Studying the hyper spanner that lay on the metal surface, he murmured the words.

"I'm not doing this for Seven."

*

He found her - appropriately enough - in Astrometrics. She appeared quite startled by his appearance but in true Seven fashion refused to agree with him when he mentioned it. Instead she asked rather archly, "What are you doing here, Commander?"

Well, the truth then. At least some of it. "I came to apologise. I'm sorry I haven't been around as much lately. I've been...busy."

She hesitated her work for a moment before continuing, apparently concentrating on her console. "I see. Do you anticipate being 'busy' again in the future?"

He tried to study her expression. "No."

Finally she looked back at him and paused her work. "Very well," she commented, although it almost sounded like something else. "Was there any other reason you came to see me?"

Moving his gaze from her and looking as innocent as possible, he studied the Astrometrics screen. "Actually Seven...I've been wondering something..."

"Yes?"

"Would you be able to calculate all the stars in the Universe for me?"

~FINIS

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