Disclaimer - characters are Paramounts. I am just playing...
You can blame this on those 'Captain's Table' novels I've been reading.
In retrospect, I suppose I should have realised something was bothering him earlier than I actually did, but I'd been swamped. We'd been encountering one alien race after another, some friendly, some not. I was trying to negotiate for trade one day, and then defending my ship from an alien attack the next.
For a few weeks there was blessed peace, and that was when I realised something was wrong. He still performed his duties as diligently as ever, but he was less talkative than he normally was. Usually on the bridge one of us would lean over and chat to the other with a grin, but lately he seemed too busy for that.
When he wasn't working I'd often find him somewhere with a distracted expression on his face. He'd be a little slower in his answers when faced with a question, and a little quicker to act as if he was fine when asked.
It was at B'Elanna's birthday party that I really began to suspect that something was wrong. B'Elanna's his oldest friend on Voyager; he should have been in an extremely good mood. He wasn't. He went through the motions of celebrating her birthday - giving her a lovely gift, making a suitably embarrassing speech (although Tom found the whole thing hilarious) - and if I hadn't been paying special attention to him lately I wouldn't have noticed. He did a pretty good job of hiding it from the others, but not from me.
So it was at our weekly chat about ships systems two days later that I confronted him. I made sure to make everything as non-threatening as possible, which basically meant I acted as normal. The door beeped, I invited him to sit down, asked him if he wanted something to eat or drink, then we set about reading through the PADDs on my desk and talking about the latest developments on Voyager.
Twenty minutes into the meeting, I calculated that he was relaxed enough for me to ask. Leaning back in my chair and taking a careful sip of my coffee, I asked my question.
"Chakotay...are you alright?"
It took a few moments for the words to register in his mind - no doubt he was deep in thought about something again - and eventually he looked up from the PADD he was holding. He frowned at me slightly.
I smiled patiently and leant forward, placing my cup on my desk. "Something's been bothering you for weeks now. You always seem to be in deep thought about something. You're not as chatty as you used to be, and whenever I find you off duty you're staring out of a viewport. Frankly I'm concerned."
He grinned slightly, although I suspected it was more for my benefit than from any real humour on his part. "Kathryn, I appreciate your concern for me, but I assure you that it's nothing serious. I've just...had a lot on my mind."
"Would you like to talk about it?" I suggested.
He smiled again, this time faster with genuine amusement at the idea of telling me about whatever was bothering him. At the time I couldn't fathom why he would find it amusing. We'd certainly talked to each other before when we had something on our minds.
"Thanks for the offer Kathryn, but I'll have to decline. It's not that you're not a good friend," he assured me "this is just something I need to think about for a while by myself."
I told him I understood and for the most part it was true, but that didn't stop me from wondering. Mark used to call me 'Curious Kathryn'. He insisted that I had to know everything about those I cared about. I suppose he was right, but thankfully the nickname didn't stay with me when I took command of Voyager.
The rest of our meeting progressed happily enough, but I couldn't get past the gnawing need to know just what was on his mind...
I was to find out three days later.
More often than not, the alien races we encounter in the Delta Quadrant have chips on their shoulders the size of Voyager herself. As was the case with the Numi, a race of humanoids who were intent on destroying us because we happened to pass near their space. Paranoia seemed to run rampant through their territory. We later learned they had good reason, but when we were in battle we didn't particularly care.
We sustained several hits of their energy weapons which were not unlike our quantum torpedoes. This meant they made one hell of an impact every time they were used.
Five more hits and several failed communication attempts later, our shields were down to nine per cent. Another hit and we'd be completely vulnerable.
Amid the chaos, the shouts of pain, surprise and fear, the harshly barked orders...Tuvok, as always, maintained his composure. And revealed to us a piece of luck. His and Harry's constant sensor scans stood us in good stead in this instance, as they finally revealed a slight waver of energy in the shields across the other vessels bow. It seemed these aliens placed their heaviest shields around the sections they considered most important - weapons launchers.
However, Tuvok deduced that this would work to our advantage. I ordered for all weapons to be targeted on the weakened section of their shields. As we were about to fire we were hit by another barrage of their weapons and I was thrown across the bridge with such force that I hit the wall and blacked out.
From the reports I read after the fact, I know what happened next. Chakotay ordered for our weapons to be fired. They did the trick. The Numi, in an apparent fit of panic, surrendered. Our shields may have been down, but so were theirs. We discovered that the Numi had been oppressed for centuries by another race and had recently gained their freedom (recent referring to roughly a century ago). Not wanting to have to suffer such hardship again, they instantly battled with any race they encountered to try and eliminate the risk of being taken over. Apparently they hadn't met anyone with sensors quite as sophisticated as Voyager's. Chakotay, ever the diplomat, convinced them to try and talk to new aliens first, not just draw their weapons and fire (I'm not quite sure that's the terminology he used, but I'm sure you get the idea).
That's what I know happened. What I remember however is this...
I woke in sickbay with one hell of a headache. Opening my eyes, but wincing at the light, I tried to move my head into various positions to see it anyone was here. My head pounded at the slightest movement.
The Doctor suddenly appeared to my left. I don't know it his program had just been activated or if he had walked there from his office - I didn't know and I didn't care much either. I just wanted my headache to be gone.
He asked me how I was feeling; I replied with a rather colourful sentiment. He gave me a hypospray which instantly lessened my pain and he confirmed what I suspected - that I had suffered a concussion. He'd apparently treated me for it, but he was keeping me in sickbay for observation.
I asked about Voyager's state, and he informed me that I wasn't to even think about the ship until I was healed. Good luck, Doctor.
Two minutes later Chakotay entered sickbay and moved immediately to the biobed I was lying on. "Hey." he said quietly, so not to aggravate the headache he must have known I had.
"Hi." I replied, just as quietly.
His hand hovered next to mine on the biobed. "How are you feeling?"
Governed my some impulse I didn't fully understand, my hand reached out to hold his. He squeezed it gratefully, as if to confirm that I was there.
"About as good as I always feel whenever I end up in here." I replied, in an admittedly weak attempt at humour.
He looked down at our hands, then back at my face. "You had us worried there for a while. The Doctor thought you might go into a coma."
I frowned, ignoring the shards of pain I felt passing through my skull. "How long have I been here?"
Two days?? It certainly hadn't felt like that long. True, I'd been unconscious for most of it, but still...
Back to business. "How's Voyager doing?"
"Hah. I knew you couldn't leave your work alone for more than five minutes."
I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at him as he continued talking.
"B'Elanna's almost got the shields back up to full strength, and there were minor hull breeches on decks four and nine. The replicators went off line and we've had to endure mess hall food until this morning when Harry told a very grateful crew that they were working again."
I closed my eyes and smiled, silently thanking him for being there.
He proceeded to tell me all about the Numi, their history and how they'd eventually managed to come to a peaceful solution. Once again I was amazed by his abilities.
A few minutes later he returned the bridge. He didn't visit me again.
After being released from sickbay, I wanted to go to the bridge but for once heeded the Doctor's advice and went to my quarters for a good nights sleep. I have to admit I was much better for it.
The next morning I decided to be sociable and went to the mess hall for breakfast. Upon entering I was quite surprised to find that Chakotay wasn't there. He usually ate breakfast at that time.
Brushing aside my disappointment, I headed toward the replicator and ordered some pecan pie. I do like treating myself sometimes.
I took a seat next to Harry, who was sitting opposite B'Elanna and Tom. Mutual greetings and queries about my health followed, and all seemed quite relieved that I was alright.
Our proximity to the Delaney sisters table however, soon brought our pleasant conversation to an end.
"Man, have you seen the state Chakotay's in lately?" Jenny asked her sister.
Megan chuckled as she played with the banana she was holding. "How could I not? Ever since the Captain's been injured he hasn't left his quarters other than to work or visit her in sickbay."
"He's got it bad."
My eyebrows rose as I tried not to listen.
"Yeah, well that much is obvious." Megan pointed the banana at her sister. "I guess that means there go your chances with him..."
I dropped my fork, aware of the glances I was receiving from the three other people on my table.
Jenny purred. "Never say never..."
I stood from my seat and quickly excused myself from the table.
After several attempts at buzzing his door, I let myself into his room using my override code. An abuse of authority perhaps, but I was worried. And curious. And maybe just slightly hopeful.
As I predicted, he was standing and looking out the window again. I approached him silently thinking he hadn't noticed my entrance. When I placed my hand on his shoulder however, he didn't jump.
"We need to talk." I told him. "Or rather...you need to."
He shrugged carelessly, still looking out the window. I couldn't see his expression. "I told you. I just need to think for a while."
"What you *need* is to talk." I removed my hand then placed it on his arm. "Chakotay...whatever's bothering you, I'd like to help."
He seemed to think over my words for a few moments, before turning his head to look down at me. He smiled quickly, softly, before returning his gaze to the stars.
"I...realised something a few weeks ago. It's made me rather disconcerted."
I paused. "Can I ask what it is you realised?"
He paused. "I'd rather not say for the moment." He knew I understood, and continued talking. "It's made me question some of my motives, my decisions. I'm not sure what I'm doing anymore." He turned around suddenly, surprising me. "We made a decision, didn't we Kathryn? It was never said but we silently agreed that we would wait. After your letter from Mark we were both free to do whatever we wanted, pursue anything we wanted to. But we didn't. It wasn't the right time." He turned away again. "I've been questioning some of my decisions lately."
This was delicate territory. I smiled, even though he couldn't see. "Chakotay...you're not the type to push someone into something, and I'm not the type who capitulates easily. It's made for an...interesting relationship."
"And frustrating." he added.
"True." I agreed simply.
We'd made a step. Not a huge one, but it was a start.
I glanced at his chronometer. "I have to be on the bridge in five minutes."
"I know." he replied, almost sadly.
I turned to go, but that unknown impulse returned again and I found myself hugging him. His arms wrapped around me, welcoming. I stayed for as long as I could, and a minute before I was due on the bridge I pulled back. I reached up and gently ran my hand over the side of his face. "Dinner tonight?" I asked carefully.
"Love to." he answered, with a real smile this time.
Moving away from him regretfully, I walked toward the door knowing he was watching.
"And..." he said, stopping me from leaving. I turned back.
"Thank you for being curious, Kathryn."
And you know, for the first time I really didn't mind being told that.