On the Carpet
Summary: Tom and B'Elanna discover that the captain isn’t the only one in a bad temper when Chakotay dishes out some behavioural adjustment therapy.
Characters: Paris, Chakotay, Torres
Codes: Paris/ Torres, Chakotay & Paris
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Written for #fictober2018 Day 16 prompt: “This is gonna be so much fun!” Episode addition to Scientific Method.
“What are you doing here?” B’Elanna frowns, slowing as she approaches. “I thought Chakotay wanted to talk about the power usage reports.”
“And I was hoping he wanted to fine-tune my flight plan around those pulsars.” I straighten up from my position holding up the wall outside Chakotay’s office. “Maybe it’s just –”
The door slides open, and from inside the office Chakotay barks, “Paris. Torres. Get in here now.”
“This is gonna be so much fun!” I mutter. B’Elanna gives me a dark look as she pushes past me.
We stand at ease, side by side before Chakotay’s desk. He continues to work on his padd, ignoring us, until B'Elanna loses patience.
“Why are we here, Chakotay?” she demands.
“That’s Commander to you.” There’s none of his usual warmth in his voice. “Why do you think you’re here, Lieutenant?”
She folds her arms, jaw stuck out in defiance. “If you’re planning to ream us out for, uh…”
“Your less than discreet displays of shipboard fraternisation?” he suggests with heavy sarcasm.
B'Elanna shifts on her feet. “Right… Uh, the captain already laid into us for it.”
“Oh, I’m aware of that.”
Chakotay finally puts down the padd and stands, moving around the desk to crowd close to B'Elanna. She doesn’t budge, but I find myself edging closer, standing protectively at her back. As if she needs my protection.
Chakotay ignores me completely, focusing on B'Elanna.
“What were you thinking, Torres?” he demands. “No, don’t answer that. You weren’t thinking. At least not with your head.”
B'Elanna utters a low growl.
“You could have at least tried to cover your tracks. Did you really think a site-to-site transport wouldn’t show up in the security logs?”
“I guess not.”
“Or that word wouldn’t get around the ship that the pair of you were finding every excuse to duck out of your duties and meet up … for what? A quick grope in the Jeffries tube?” His voice is rising now. “What are you, first-year cadets? I’m disappointed in you, B'Elanna!”
“I’m sorry!” she bursts out, fists clenched. “I made an error in judgement, okay? It won’t happen again.”
“See that it doesn’t,” he snaps. “Dismissed.”
Red-faced, B'Elanna turns for the door and I slink behind her, only to be halted in my tracks.
“Not you, Paris.”
I resume the at-ease posture, fixing my gaze on a point somewhere on the far wall.
“Well, Lieutenant?” Chakotay might be a shade shorter than I am, but I feel like he’s towering over me right now. “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
I clear my throat to stifle the smartass rejoinder that’s just dying to climb out of my mouth. “No, sir.”
“Well, I do.” Chakotay circles behind me, making the back of my neck prickle. “I should have expected this kind of behaviour from you. I had hoped you’d changed, but once again you’ve proved me wrong.”
That stings. But not as badly as what he says next.
“You know the worst part? The captain believed in you, and you let her down.”
I shuffle my feet. “Yes, sir.”
“You’re a medic – you know how much stress she’s under.” Chakotay pinches the bridge of his nose as though his head hurts, but his glare doesn’t lessen in force. “You think she doesn’t have enough to worry about without two senior officers making themselves the talk of the ship?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” I mumble. Any humour I might have found in being called on the carpet like a wayward schoolboy has long since drained away.
“I’m not the one you should be apologising to.”
He leans a hip on the edge of his desk, one hand pinching and rubbing at the back of his neck. I let my gaze drop from that spot on the far bulkhead, noticing for the first time how tired he looks.
“The captain has put a lot of faith in both you and B'Elanna,” he goes on. “The last thing she needs is … is the pair of you …” His words fade out as he sways a little, and I reach to steady him in alarm.
“Commander, are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” He squeezes his eyes closed for a moment longer, then straightens. “It’s just a headache.”
“Now you really sound like the captain,” I mutter.
He turns that stare on me again but it lacks the heat it held earlier, and I just look back at him calmly until he shakes his head with the hint of a smile.
“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment, Lieutenant.”
I let myself relax a fraction. “Speaking of the captain,” I venture, “she does seem particularly, uh, stressed out at the moment. Is she,” it seems stupid and inadequate, but finally I finish, “is she okay?”
“Right,” I can’t help drawling. “She’s been on the bridge for practically two days straight, looks like she hasn’t slept in a week and couldn’t care less about studying stellar phenomena. I’m sorry, Chakotay, but that doesn’t sound like she’s fine.”
“What do you want me to say, Paris?” he flares at me. “You think I don’t know this? You think I don’t try to get her to take breaks and holodeck time, to cut down on coffee, to eat and sleep properly?”
Then he clams up as though he’s just realised he’s revealed far too much, and slumps into his chair, rubbing at his forehead again.
“Chakotay, maybe you should go to sickbay.”
“I said I’m fine,” he snarls. “Get the hell out of here, Paris. And if I hear any more gossip about you and B'Elanna, you’ll be suffering a whole lot worse than a dressing-down.”
“Excuse me for trying to offer my help, sir,” I return, falling back on sarcasm to mask the affront I wish I wasn’t feeling. “From now on I’ll remember my station.”
I don’t bother waiting for a response; I high-tail it out of there, forcing myself to go straight to the bridge instead of skiving off to see B'Elanna.
But I can’t help picturing Chakotay, collapsed into his chair as though he was so bone-tired his legs couldn’t hold him anymore, expending the last of his energy on trying to shield the captain from taking on any more stress, and I wonder just who helps lighten the burdens he carries.