Title: Compos Mentis
Summary: The Captain finds it difficult to adjust to life in the alpha quadrant
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, well not all of them, a few random admirals are mine.
Authors note: Post Endgame. Every Voyager fan has got a homecoming story in them havent they? This is mine.
The silence was deafening. An oxymoron maybe but that was the only way to describe the atmosphere on the bridge. Kathryn had always believed that when Voyager finally returned home there would be shouts, screams, laughter, tears. She had always half expected to be picked up by Paris and twirled around like a teenager. She would give him her customary death glare before admitting defeat, he would grin, Harry would laugh and Chakotay would chuckle, while Tuvok would merely raise an eyebrow. How things have changed.
She had imagined getting home in many different scenarios, another array, a wormhole, slipstream technology or some other yet to be discovered alien technology. She had never, ever imagined a borg hub or the appearance of a future Admiral Kathryn Janeway.
And what a revelation she had been. The depth of the Admiral's guilt and determination had scared Kathryn. Not because she didn't recognise her future self, but that she recognised her all too well. Oh there were moments of levity with the Admiral but her intensity and single mindedness were all too familiar for Kathryn. She could quite understand how she became the Admiral. Hell she was half way there.
Seven years ago she would not have said to hell with the temporal prime directive for her own selfish means, seven years ago she would not have come close to committing the murder of a fellow Starfleet officer – no matter what their crime - and seven years ago she would not have made deals with the borg.
Seven years with a stranded crew in the Delta Quadrant had changed Kathryn Janeway in many ways. And unfortunately not all of them were for the better.
She closed her eyes, forcing the negative thoughts out of her mind. Be happy – you've just managed to travel over 75,000 light years in seven years. The problem was that the silence was no longer just deafening; it was beginning to feel oppressive. Kathryn tugged at the collar of her uniform, her face felt like it was on fire and she struggled to get oxygen into her lungs. Pull yourself together.
She looked around to see if she was the only person suffering, perhaps the journey had affected the environmental controls. Harry was staring in wonderment at the viewscreen, willing Earth closer with every second. She turned to her right to see Tuvok working quietly at Tactical before swinging back around to her left at Seven who was looking directly in front. At Chakotay. Let's not go there. None of your business.
No one else seemed to be suffering from lack of oxygen. It was just the fearless Captain Janeway who appeared to be having a panic attack, while the Federation Fleet escorted the intrepid starship back home through the Alpha Quadrant. That's the Enterprise. I wonder if Picard has ever had a panic attack on the bridge.
This was ridiculous. She needed to get some time to herself. To decompress. To sort through the myriad of emotions swirling through her.
"Commander, Ill be in my Ready Room – you have the bridge."
She didn't wait for Chakotay's response. She ignored the question that she knew would be on his lips and she dismissed the sense of everyone eyes on her as she retreated to her Ready Room.
I just need to breathe.
"She's got your eyes B'Elanna." Chakotay said softly, never taking his eyes off the beautiful newborn baby.
"Yeah but she has Tom's mouth though. Hopefully it won't turn out to be quite so big as her father's."
Chakotay didn't know about the facial features that belonged to the Paris genes; all he knew was that this was the most beautiful baby he had ever seen. He could not have loved her more than if she was his own.
"I hope you're not going to hog this child all the way back to Planetia Utopia Commander, " said a raspy voice behind him, he looked over his shoulder to see the Captain hovering at the door to sickbay.
He hadn't set eyes on the Captain since she retreated to her ready room a few hours ago, ignoring his questioning glance and the raised eyebrows of the bridge. He was worried about her. She did not seem as exuberant as he expected her to be. How he had imagined her to be on many occasions.
Although he had to admit, none of those occasions had involved sending her future self to be assimilated by the borg queen. And he knew that the Admiral had told her something about the future. Her u-turn had been too severe for it to have been any other reason. Whatever it was had spooked her enough to ignore the temporal prime directive.
He had considered going after her but hesitated. Things had changed over the years. A few years ago he would not have thought twice. Forcing her to talk of whatever was bothering her. But the distance between them, since the Equinox, since Quarra, made him pause. They had a left a few things behind in the Delta Quadrant, and while he knew their friendship would always remain intact, the platonic intimacy they had once shared appeared to be one of them.
"I just might Captain. Isn't she beautiful?"
The Captain walked over to where Chakotay was perched on the biobed and stood at his shoulder. He took the time to look at her as she gazed down at the child. She was tired, drawn and looked like she had just gone ten rounds with the Kazon and Hirogen combined instead of achieving the unimaginable in getting her crew home, in relatively one piece, from the depths of the Delta Quadrant.
"Absolutely. May I pull rank Chakotay?"
He nodded and saw the Captain smile at his reluctance as he headed the child gently over to her. But if had known the change in the Captain by simply holding the child in her arms, he would have thrust the child at her the moment she walked into the room. Radiant was not the word. It was as if every ounce of Captain and protocol and responsibility had melted away and all was left was Kathryn.
"Oh my B'Elanna. She really is beautiful. Did you decide on Miral for her name?" she looked up at B'Elanna and Tom.
"We did." said Tom, who was smirking no doubt at the change in his formidable Captain. She had gone all gooey. There was no other word for it.
"But," B'Elanna interjected, "We also decided on a middle name."
"Captain, meet Miral Kathryn Paris."
That made the Captain look up sharply and Chakotay was shocked to see the tears form in her eyes, a quick glance at Tom and B'Elanna showed they too were having difficulty keeping their emotions in check.
The Captain swallowed thickly, her voice husk with tears, "I don't know what to say. I am truly honoured. Truly, truly honoured."
She looked over at Chakotay and he was floored again by the radiance in her smile and the tears that threatened. He couldn't help but grin back. He stood to edge closer to where Kathryn was swaying with the baby and rested a hand on her shoulder.
"Miral Kathryn. Named after two formidable women. One of them is the bravest, decent and most remarkable woman, I've ever met."
He felt Kathryn lean lightly against him and saw Tom lay an arm round his wife's shoulder as they sat up on the bio bed. If you had told Chakotay seven years ago that he would witnessing the naming of B'Elanna and Tom Paris' child, after a Starfleet Captain no less, he would have thought the world had gone mad. How much had changed. The selfish, thoughtless Tom Paris had become a husband, father and consummate Starfleet Lieutenant. The brash, impulsive and difficult B'Elanna Torres was now a mother as well as the Chief Engineer on a Federation starship and lectured junior staff about Starfleet protocols and adherence to them.
And he, the angry warrior, had finally found the peace he had been searching for his entire life.
"It almost makes you want one, doesn't it?" he said with a laugh and the Captain chuckled next to him. Her gaze riveted once more to Miral but with her eyes serious, she whispered, "I don't think I could ever deserve something so wonderful."
Her tone was so serious but Chakotay was prevented from commenting by the swish of the sickbay doors behind him.
"Come in Seven," Called Tom and Chakotay felt the Captain tense in his arms. Why he had no idea.
"I am told it is customary to pass on congratulations to the parents of a newly born child."
"Thank you Seven," said B'Elanna as the Captain moved towards her, away from Chakotay and deposited the child back in her mother's arms. When she turned around, gone was the softness and radiant smile. The Captain's mask was back firmly in place.
"I'll leave you to your visitors, Lieutenants, I am sure there will be a herd of officers tripping over themselves to see our latest crew member."
"Tuvok to Captain Janeway"
" We are nearing Planetia Utopia."
"I'll be right there Tuvok. Mr Paris, I understand that you may want to remain here but if you would like to be the one to truly bring Voyager home, she is all yours."
B'Elanna nodded to her husband. "I would be honoured, Captain. After all we know what happens when Chakotay pilots."
The Captain smirked at Tom before turning to Chakotay, "Commander, I think we will need you on the bridge."
"Aye, Captain ."
As Seven and Tom began to file out, Chakotay looked back to see the Captain hovering next to B'Elanna.
He was intrigued by B'Elanna's face as she watched the Captain say her goodbyes to Miral. In her eyes there was what looked like what? Sympathy? Surely not. The Captain, her attention riveted to the child, had missed it and merely patted her Chief Engineers shoulder in wordless congratulations before turning back towards him.
"After you Commander. We wouldn't want to miss a fine display of Mr Paris' docking skills."
Kathryn was pleased that Starfleet had allowed the crew one last evening aboard Voyager before disembarking at Planetia Utopia. The next day the crew would be reunited with their loved ones at the space station and Kathryn was grateful that Starfleet was allowing that reunion to happen in relative privacy. There had been rumours of Voyager landing at the Presidio in full view of the media, the idea that her crew's emotional family reunions would be on such public display sent shivers down her spine.
The crew had also not had much opportunity to celebrate following the first appearance of the Admiral and Kathryn knew that her little family needed to enjoy being together one last time.
She entered the holodeck and headed straight for Tuvok, who was conversing with Ayala at the bar, holding what suspiciously looked like a glass of champagne.
"Are my eyes deceiving me? Is that my 2nd Officer drinking champagne?"
"Indeed it is Captain. Abstaining from the traditional human method of celebration did not seem...logical on this occasion."
Kathryn patted him on the arm with a chuckle as Chell offered her the Alpha Quadrant tipple of her choice.
"I think I will treat myself to a single malt whiskey. No ice."
"A woman after my own heart, Captain," said Ayala, leaning conspiratorially towards her, "Can I interest you in a glass of Glenmorangie, the finest 12 year old, single malt Scottish whiskey in the universe?"
"Why Lieutenant, how could I refuse? Thank you," the Captain said as she accepted the offered glass. "Hmm very good Mike, almost as good as a Jameson."
"You wound me Captain, a Jameson does not even come close. A Glen Moray on the other hand would knock your socks off."
"Are you trying to tell me the Scots know more about whiskey than the Irish, Lieutenant?" Kathryn mock glared at her security officer, who took no notice whatsoever and grinned.
"I fail to see how a beverage with the same properties could ever be so different to warrant a discussion on their individuality," interrupted Tuvok and Ayala shared a withering glance with the Captain. Vulcans. The Captain was about to respond when her attention was diverted by the arrival of Chakotay and Seven into the mess hall.
She raised her glass in greeting at the couple before turning back to the bar when they stopped to talk to Naomi and Icheb. She downed the whiskey in one large gulp, feeling the welcome burn at the back of her throat. She beckoned Ayala closer.
"You know Lieutenant, I think I am going to need another shot or two of your Scottish whiskey to make an informed decision on its attributes. If you are willing to share of course?"
"I would be honoured to Captain."
Kathryn glanced at Tuvok and tried not to notice the raised eyebrow of her Chief Security Officer as she accepted a refill and diverted her attention back to Mike.
"Do you think we can replicate a bottle of this Glen Moray?"
Tuvok's eyebrow got higher.
Sometime later and nicely buzzed by her fourth or fifth glass of Glenmorangie (Ayala had refused to replicate the Glen Moray, a sacrilege he called it, and promised to send her a bottle) Kathryn felt the weird weight that had rested heavily on her shoulders the last few hours drift away.
The happiness and excitement of her crew was infectious. She had tried on several occasions to leave, thinking her crew would enjoy themselves more freely without their Commanding Officer present but they would not hear of it. Ayala had decided his security duties now extended to topping up her glass and blocking her way to the door with members of the crew who wanted to tell her how grateful they were to her, how much they respect her and how thankful they were to be finally home.
When Ken Dalby had said he would follow her anywhere, even back to the Delta Quadrant, she thought her Captain's mask would finally break. Ayala had quickly moved them on, sensing the Captain's emotions.
She wandered over to B'Elanna who was resting with Miral by the door to the holodeck and looked fantastic given that she had only given birth a few hours before. The wonders of 24th Century medicine, or perhaps her Klingon heritage.
Mike gave her a disapproving glare as she walked towards the door and she pointed to B'Elanna in defence.
"How's mommy doing?" Kathryn asked as she sat next to B'Elanna.
"Mommy is tired, sore and wants to sleep for a week. But I'm also elated." Kathryn smiled at her normally brusque Chief Engineer. "I'm not sure how to describe it, but the moment she was born...I don't think I have ever felt anything like it. Part of me cant believe any of its real, having Miral, getting home."
"I know what you mean, it even crossed my mind that the Hirogen were back and this was another of their holoprogrammes." Kathryn caught B'Elanna's blush, "What?"
"While Tom was feeding Miral earlier I did a full system wide check for any anomalies," B'Elanna whispered.
"So did I," Kathryn admitted and threw her head back and laughed while B'Elanna chuckled at their paranoia.
"What's the joke?" asked Tom as he and Chakotay approached the table. Tom sat down the other side of B'Elanna while Chakotay remained standing.
Kathryn turned to Tom with a wry smile, "Our mutual paranoia. We'll be looking for holoemitters under the sofa in our quarters next."
B'Elanna laughed again with the Captain, while the men looked on in amused confusion. Kathryn waved her hand to say ignore us.
"So what are you two up to?"
"Admitting defeat, as are most the crew. On one side everyone wants to party until the early hours..."
"It is the early hours Tom."
"Well, continue until dawn then. The body however is just not willing."
Kathryn laughed at the slumped form of her helmsman.
"The kids just don't have the stamina these days do they Commander?" she joked to Chakotay who chuckled back.
"It looks not Captain, it seems most of our kids are heading back to their quarters."
After a good half an hour of good nights and shaking the hand of her entire crew, Kathryn was left with her senior staff and Ayala (who was still taking his new duties extremely seriously). She was shocked by the sudden exhaustion she felt. Handing the sleeping Miral back to her mother she was about to make her excuses to leave when Seven beat her to it.
"I'll walk you back Seven," Chakotay said, smiling his goodbyes to his colleagues who all looked nonplussed apart from B'Elanna who looked like she was about to throttle him.
"Good evening, Seven. Chakotay."
"Captain." He nodded before escorting Seven out of the room with a hand at the small of her back.
Silence descended over the group as it became obvious to everyone that there was something going on between their First Officer and the former Borg drone.
"You're kidding me?" spluttered Tom. "He's not, please tell me he's not seriously...ow! What was that for?" B'Elanna had now turned her glare on her husband who was rubbing his ribs in pain.
Silence descended as Kathryn stole a glance at the Doctor who, if she didn't know was a hologram, could have sworn he had gone pale.
Kathryn was saved the awkwardness or discussing her XO's latest entanglement by her loyal security officer, who extended his arm out to her.
"Captain, may I escort you safely home?" he asked formally, but she saw the glint in his eyes.
"Thank you Lieutenant. Good night everyone, I'll see you for the staff briefing tomorrow morning."
There was a chorus of 'Goodnight Captain' as she left the room on the arm of Mike Ayala.
Moments later as they were making their way through the winding corridors of Voyager, Kathryn could not remember the last time she had laughed as freely as she did with Mike, who was regaling her with tales of his youthful exploits.
"I can't believe you did that!"
"Neither could my mother. She refused to talk to me for two weeks, said I had brought shame on the whole family."
"I guess problems with authority figures was something that followed you into the Maquis Lieutenant."
"It certainly did Captain."
They reached the door of the Captain's quarters with Kathryn feeling happier than she had felt since the first arrival of the Admiral. She turned to Mike with a genuine smile on her face,
"Thank you Lieutenant, and not just for the walk home. You've been a most dedicated officer this evening. I appreciate it and all you've done for this ship over the past seven years."
Ayala ducked his head in pleased embarrassment, "The thanks should go to you Captain. I wouldn't have followed any old Starfleet captain out here. You earned the respect of all of us and I couldn't agree more with Dalby. We'd all follow you back to the Delta Quadrant."
Kathryn felt the rush of tears and wondered what the hell had happened to the damn captain's mask she had perfected over the years. It seemed to disappear through the transwarp hub with the rest of the Delta Quadrant.
"Thank you, Mike. After being responsible for stranding you here, away from your sons for all these years, that is very generous of you."
Ayala paused as if unsure of himself, "Captain I have missed my sons, of course I have. But I am surprised that you think that I or any of the crew would blame you for what happened,"
"I was the one who made the decision, Mike. For all of us."
"And none of us would go back and change that decision." Ayala took a deep breath.
"Permission to speak freely Captain?"
Kathryn could only nod her assent.
"You need to let it go. The crew did a long time ago - even Mortimer." They both laughed at that, the normally reclusive Mortimer had come around the past year or two.
"There is no reason for guilt, the caretaker brought us here. I would not be able to live with myself if getting back home had come at the cost of all those Ocampan lives. And you know what? What if we had got back? Where would the Maquis be? We would be in prison in Cardassia or slaughtered on Tevlik."
Kathryn shivered at the casual way Ayala spoke.
"And as for the Starfleet crew. The Dominion War was brutal Captain, two thirds of this crew would probably be dead by now. We've all been getting sad news from home, Maquis and Starfleet alike. We've all lost too many comrades these past few years, for some of us there is not a lot to go home to."
Ayala looked deep into the Captain's eyes and Kathryn knew that he must be able to see the glistening tears. He stepped closer to her.
"I wont deny that seeing my sons again has been my drive to get back to Earth but they are grown men now, forging their own lives. Home? Home for me and for most of the crew is right here Captain. On Voyager. "
Kathryn was speechless by Ayala's passionate words and reached up to squeeze his shoulder.
"I cant tell you how much that means to me Lieutenant. Thank you." It was barely a whisper and she was relieved that Ayala knew to take a step back.
"You say that to me now, but after plying you with whiskey this evening, will you still respect me in the morning?"
Kathryn burst out laughing, breaking the emotional tension.
"If you weren't under my command Mike I'd hug you," she winked at him.
"If I weren't under your command Captain I'd be asking for a lot more than a hug."
Kathryn' eyebrow rose at that but the death glare didn't last long and it soon reduced to an eye roll.
"Get out of here Lieutenant. You're delirious and obviously need to sleep off the terrible Scottish whiskey you've been consuming."
"Terrible, you say. Ill make sure my boys don't bring that bottle of Glen Moray tomorrow then."
"Now, there's no need to over-react…"
"Goodnight Captain." Ayala turned to go but was stopped by the Captain's arm.
"Thank you Mike."
"For the whiskey?" he grinned as the Captain shook her head in mock frustration.
"For the whiskey, the walk to my door and for seven years of faithful service to this crew."
"In that order Captain?" Ayala joked.
"In that order."
Chakotay was feeling good. Voyager was home, Starfleet hadn't tried to have him arrested yet, he had drunk copious amounts of Chateau Picard Champagne, had just walked a beautiful young girl back to her 'chamber' and had spent a rather stimulating brief few minutes exploring a part of Seven he, honestly and truthfully had never thought about exploring until a few weeks ago.
Life was good. Life was very, very good. He almost felt like whistling….As he stepped out the turbo lift to the officer's quarters he thought he heard the Captain's voice. She couldn't have stayed much longer at the party after he and Seven left. Damn, he thought, she really needed to spend some time letting her hair down with the crew.
As he got closer he was surprised to hear her laughing with another male member of the crew.
"….if you weren't under my command Mike, I'd hug you." Chakotay's eyes bulged at that one. She had never sounded so familiar with a crew member outside of the senior officers. So he was certainly not expecting Ayala's reply.
"If I wasn't under your command Captain I'd be asking for a lot more than a hug." Chakotay froze. He was probably going to have to scrape Ayala off a bulkhead once the Captain was finished with him.
"Get out of here lieutenant, you're delirious…." Chakotay couldn't believe this was his Captain. Starfleet's golden girl, who had upheld Starfleet protocol throughout the depths and the tribulations of the Delta Quadrant. She was flirting with her security officer.
He stopped dead in his tracks, not wanting to interrupt, the Captain would be embarrassed if she knew her first officer had overheard. He couldn't make out the Captain's next words they were spoken so softly or Ayala's reply. After a few moments he chanced a peek round the corner and was barrelled into by a familiar figure.
"Sorry Commander, I wasn't watching where I was going."
"As you were Lieutenant. Everything OK?"
"I escorted the Captain safely back to her quarters, Commander." Ayala leaned in conspiratorially and Chakotay was not surprised to notice the stale alcohol on the officers breath.
"She drank nearly a half bottle of whiskey to herself tonight. I wanted to make sure she was ok."
Chakotay whistled, he had never seen the Captain drink anything more potent than a bottle of Antarian Cider, the effects of which were about as mild as synthenol.
"I know impressive isn't it? I bet she drank all those up tight 'fleeters under the table back at the academy."
"You don't seem all that sober, Lieutenant." Chakotay smirked Ayala liked indulge when he had the chance.
"I was on duty sir."
"Duty? You really shouldn't have been drinking Mike, did Tuvok change shifts around?"
Ayala looked awkward, which was unlike him and Chakotay got more and more confused.
"I wanted to make sure she was ok."
"OK? Was something wrong?" Chakotay was worried now, he had his own concerns about the Captain's behaviour the past couple of days but he had hoped the rest of the crew had not noticed anything. He should have spoken to her about it but he had barely spent any time alone with her. Come to think of it, he hadn't spent much time with the Captain for a few weeks now.
Ayala looked at his Commander as if he had grown two heads. "She just got us home Chakotay. From the Delta Quadrant. After seven years of being on constant yellow alert. She's been shot at, blown up, assimilated by the borg, stranded by the Kazon, had her memory wiped, turned into a lizard, gone back in time, forward in time, met a future version of herself, battled the borg queen eyeball to eyeball, argued with Q, saved the continuum and done this all while leading 152 crew through unknown space with no back-up and the prospect of a 70 year journey ahead of her. "
Chakotay could barely respond before Ayala continued his diatribe. Maybe he was a little more worse for wear than Chakotay had first thought.
"So yes, I was a little concerned when she so readily downed a shot of whiskey this evening because its all going to catch up with her at some point and I wanted to make sure someone was there to break the fall."
Keen to dismiss any gossiping among the crew, Chakotay tried to waive it off, "That's very decent of you Mike, but I am sure she's fine. Like you said, she just got us home. This is what she wanted. What she lived for these past seven years."
"Have you even spoken to her today Chakotay?"
"No I mean really spoken to her. Alone. And about more than whether a couple of gel packs need replacing."
"Mike, I'm not sure…"
"You've been preoccupied Chakotay. Not that I can blame you, there's not a man on this ship that will blame you for that." Chakotay looked at his old friend in shock, he wasn't aware his relationship with Seven was common knowledge and he wasn't too sure how he felt about people knowing.
"Look, I don't know what you've heard but…"
"It's a small ship Chakotay. You cant keep secrets for long. And certainly not from the security team who have to look over inappropriate site to sites into the first officer's quarters."
Chakotay was dumbfounded. If that's the case then Tuvok would know. And if Tuvok knew then….
"Who else knows?"
"Chakotay you walked into the celebration with her on your arm and you left with her this evening. You should be asking who doesn't know."
Chakotay scrubbed his face in irritation. The feel good factor certainly never lasts longs on Voyager, he thought bitterly.
"My point was Chakotay is that you've missed the signs."
Chakotay still fuming about his not-so-secret fledgling relationship, looked at Ayala in confusion.
"For seven years she had one goal. Get this ship and her crew home. It was her obsession, and we needed it to be her obsession. She dedicated her entire life to it and without her determination and sacrifice we would have probably all been killed or given up and settled on a nice M class planet in the DQ. Tomorrow we all walk off that ship never to return. What has the Captain got left? There's her family, sure. But what happens when her sister returns to her husband and family. When her mother returns to work. The captain returns to the Alpha Quadrant, her fiancé married with a child, Starfleet decimated, the Federation in crisis, her crew dispersed and her ship out of commission."
Chakotay paled, Ayala was hitting just a little too close to home and wondered when he had become such an expert on Kathryn Janeway. Still, he felt he should try to calm Mike down.
"She's going to be a hero, Mike. Starfleet will probably make her an Admiral, she'll have new responsibilities and she'll thrive on them. Spirits, she'll probably rebuild the Federation and Starfleet with her own two hands. And she will have the support of her family and all of us. Just because we got home doesn't mean we all go our separate ways."
"I'm not talking about the Captain, Chakotay."
Now Chakotay was really confused, "Mike I think we've crossed wires somewhere."
"I'm talking about Kathryn, Chakotay. What happens to Kathryn when Tom and B'Elanna take Miral to live with the Paris', when Harry returns to his parents house, the Doctor to Jupiter Station to see Dr Zimmerman, Tuvok to Vulcan. And her first officer to wherever her borg protégé ends up?"
"While you are all off playing happy families, Starfleet is going to be taking its pound of flesh from a woman still scarred by her decision to strand two crews out in the delta quadrant. A woman still looking for redemption and a Starfleet desperate for a hero. She'll make a fine Admiral, Chakotay and we'll all be very proud. But who will be there to pick Kathryn off the floor when she finally breaks?"
Ayala shook his head, "What's the use. I think you stopped seeing Kathryn a long time ago. You all did. She's been nothing but the Captain to you for so long, you've forgotten that she's also a woman of flesh and blood. A woman that's brilliant but flawed, strong yet vulnerable, beautiful but mired by guilt. You are no better than the fleet parasites that are going to suck her dry the minute we step off this ship."
"You're out of line Lieutenant."
Ayala drew back a disbelieving smirk on his face, "Permission to be dismissed Commander?"
Chakotay nodded and stared at Ayala's retreating back, his words ringing in his ears. He turned towards his quarters hesitating at the Captain's door. He could check on her now, he hadn't really had the chance to speak to her all day. They could open that last bottle of Antarian cider…He shook himself, she was probably in bed asleep now, it had been such a long day and he would get the chance to speak to her the following day. There was plenty of time and he was sure that Ayala was being melodramatic .
Chakotay let himself into his quarters and stripped quickly before settling under the covers. It had been a long few days and he was exhausted but sleep would not come easy. Ayala's words kept ringing in his head.
"You are no better than the fleet parasites that are going to suck her dry…she's been nothing but the Captain to you for so long, you've forgotten that she's also a woman."
Had he stopped seeing Kathryn? It was true that their friendship, although strong, had lost some of its intimacy over the past few months.
After the fiasco with the Equinox they had rebuilt trust quickly enough but had left their personal relationship to suffer in the storm. He had thought that they had begun to get back on track after Quarra, they had begun their weekly dinners again and spent time on the holodeck but….Chakotay was filled with shame. Since he had started dating Seven he hadn't spent a minute with Kathryn off-duty. He had lost count of the number of 'rain checks' he had asked for when she invited him to dinner.
He made a promise that would change. He may be in a romantic relationship with another woman but that was no excuse to abandon his best friend. Seven wouldn't want him to. Ayala's predictions would not be allowed to come true and he would make sure the rest of the senior officers were with him.