Rights And Regulations
by Suz suzvoy@tesco.net

Disclaimer - Heave up that mountain.

Well I've read numerous stories dealing with this, but I hadn't written one of them yet. Here's mine.

Set after 'Nothing Human'.

*

The stack of PADDS rested between them, all read, all authorised. The final one had just been completed and Kathryn slowly lowered it to the table. As she did so, she cast a subtle glance towards her First Officer who was sitting next to her on the couch in her ready room. His gaze was introspective, not seeming to realise that they had finished.

She had to say something, had to do something about the topic of conversation they had both been avoiding.

"How's B'Elanna?"

His head moved as he stared at her. "Alive."

"You know that's not what I meant."

Sighing, chuckling, he leant forward. "If you mean 'is she still angry?', then the answer is a definite yes."

Kathryn nodded. "I'm glad to hear it. If she's still retaining that aspect of her personality then she must be well on the way to recovery."

He nodded, but didn't say anything.

Settling back against the couch, Kathryn studied him surreptitiously. While he hadn't outright disagreed with her personally, his views on the matter had most definitely been vocal. "You don't agree with the decision I made, do you?"

Chakotay's eyes lowered for a moment before he sat back up and faced her. "I can see why you made that decision."

"But you didn't agree with my decision."

He looked for a moment as if he might give a different answer, but he ultimately settled on the truth. "No."

"Losing B'Elanna was out of the question."

"I understand that, Kathryn. Not only is she my oldest friend, but she's one of my closest. More than that she's an excellent engineer and officer, even if her temper gets the better of her on occasion."

"Yet you wouldn't have let the Doctor heal her with Moset's help?"

He shook his head. "Absolutely not."

She leant towards him slightly. "Chakotay, I can sympathise with why you would make that decision-"

"Sympathise?" Chakotay asked incredulously. "Do you have *any* idea what the Cardassians did to her, did to the people she loved?"

Kathryn leant away from him. "Yes I do, actually," She stated icily. "The Maquis aren't the only people who have been captured by the Cardassians." She deliberately let the implication linger before continuing. "I know it's not easy to deal with-"

"Be quiet." He stated softly.

She merely continued. "But I believe that-"

"Be *quiet*."

It was closest he had come to shouting at her for over a year.

Surprised, she kept her mouth closed, the only reason she did so.

Standing up, he quickly moved away from the couch and stepped down to the lower section of her ready room. Facing away from her, his back tense, he spoke. "How long were you there for?"

"A few weeks."

She could see him nodding, slowly.

"Alone?"

"No. Tom's father was there with me."

That seemed to surprise him. Quickly turning he faced her, frowning. "I guess you really do have good connections at Starfleet."

"I always said I did," She smiled.

He seemed to appreciate the humour, smiling a little in return. "Is it something you're comfortable talking about?"

Kathryn shrugged. "I won't say it's easy talking about it, but I've been through enough counsellors that I know how."

"So you don't need to?"

"Do you want to?"

"I've been through enough victims that I know how."

Her smile vanished at the seriousness of the statement. Standing, she perched herself on the edge of the upper level until they were almost eye-to-eye. "The truth of it Chakotay, is that I was lucky. Damned lucky. I've certainly had nightmares about the experience, but ninety per cent of the time they were purely about what they could have done to me. Admiral Paris took the worst of it. He was...different, afterwards."

Chakotay nodded with utter understanding. "I know."

There was something...something about his tone of voice. "You do, don't you?" She almost whispered.

He deliberately smirked at her question. "Yes, I was lucky enough to be a guest of the Cardassian Hospitality Suite for all of thirty six hours before I was rescued. Ironically enough, it was Seska who saved me."

Kathryn winced at that one.

He continued. "Food was non-existent, water was non-existent, and client satisfaction was absolutely nil. All-in-all, not a vacation I'd recommend to friends."

"Don't," She hissed. "Don't make light of it."

Chuckling, he turned a full 180 degrees, looking at the ceiling. "Shit, sometimes I forget you weren't in the Maquis."

"What does that mean?"

His gaze settled back on her face. "There was no choice, Kathryn. You had to find something to laugh about or you'd go out of your fucking mind."

Surprised at the profanity, her eyes widened. She rarely saw his emotions at all of late, as if he were keeping even that from her. Her shock slowly withered away and her expression relaxed. "I understand."

"I know you think you do..."

"I do," She affirmed.

Allowing it to pass, he simply nodded. "Well, I...suppose I should get back to the bridge."

"Very well." Kathryn agreed, thinking the formality was strangely out of place but not knowing any other way to say it.

He had taken two steps towards the exit when he hesitated. "Did...they do anything...?"

"No."

His back still towards her, she could see as he relaxed. "Good." And he left the room.

A frown firmly in place on her forehead, she idly ordered a coffee from a replicator and half-heartedly sat in her chair. During that whole conversation...she had never once touched him.

~FINIS

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