Underwater

Summary: Sometimes it takes almost drowning to make you reach out for a helping hand.

 

Characters: Torres, Janeway, Seven

Codes: Torres & Seven, Janeway & Torres

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 24 prompt: “You know this; you know this to be true”, which I modified slightly. Episode addition to Equinox.

Rated K+

Help me out, before I drown
Save me now, before I give up
- Rufus du Sol, Underwater


B'Elanna pushes her way into Jeffries tube 47-alpha and stops mid-crawl at finding it already occupied.

“I didn’t know you were assigned to engineering today.” Her tone is abrupt; no matter how hard she tries, just the sight of Seven of Nine gets her hackles up.

“I was unaware you hadn’t been informed.” Seven puts down the micro-caliper and turns her full attention to B’Elanna in that slightly robotic way she has. “The captain requested that I assist her with repairs to the optronic relays.”

Did she.” B’Elanna hunkers on her heels, opening her toolbox. “Where is she, then?”

“Commander Chakotay called her to the bridge.”

“Bet she loved that,” the engineer mumbles. “Seeing as she’s been avoiding him for five days now.”

A couple of years ago Seven might have demanded an explanation. But she’s come a long way, B’Elanna grudgingly admits to herself as Seven merely raises an eyebrow, returning to her work.

“So you’ve noticed it too?” B’Elanna asks, leaning in to monitor the data flow as Seven realigns the optronic emitter.

Seven is quiet for a moment, then: “I have. However, I predicted that their next significant command disagreement would cause a serious fracture in their relationship. Their interactions have declined in both frequency and cordiality over the past year.”

“Since the slipstream flight,” B'Elanna murmurs. It makes sense to her. Chakotay never said anything, but she thinks she knows what happened between him and the captain, the night before they all risked life and limb to get home.

“They have disagreed on other occasions. Commander Chakotay attempted to convince Captain Janeway to reduce Ensign Paris’ sentence after the Monean incident; she refused. He was also strongly opposed to her allowing Inspector Kashyk to board Voyager when he posed as a defector.”

Torres snorts. “He thought she was letting the wrong body part do the thinking.”

“Indeed,” Seven says dryly. “However, the captain’s ploy was successful. Perhaps the commander should have more faith.”

“And perhaps,” wafts acidly from the adjoining Jeffries tube, “my senior staff should find a more productive pastime than gossiping about their commanding officers.”

“Captain,” B'Elanna blurts, straightening as much as she can in the cramped tube, “we were just –”

“I know what you were doing, Lieutenant.” Janeway rounds the bend, eyes glacial; even Seven shifts in unease. “I recommend you don't.”

Suddenly, B'Elanna is pissed. Red-haze-before-the-eyes, upper-lip-curled, feral-growl-in-the-throat pissed. From the corner of her eye she catches Seven’s expression; the usually composed Borg is wide-eyed and still, as though the slightest movement could attract their combined wrath.

It doesn’t deter her.

“You know what?” she utters, low and mean. “It doesn’t surprise me that Chakotay finally had enough of you. What surprises me is that it didn’t happen years ago.”

“I’d advise you to watch your mouth, Lieutenant.” Janeway’s voice is the lash of a whip. “You are skating dangerously close to insubordination.”

But B'Elanna doesn’t care. “Relieve me of duty, then,” she challenges. “Send me to the brig. It won’t change the fact that Chakotay was right. You crossed the line. Just like Ransom.”

Janeway opens her mouth, presumably to call B'Elanna’s bluff. And then, like a punctured oxygen tank, her breath stutters out and she almost sags against the Jeffries tube wall.

“You know this,” B’Elanna realises, her own anger leaking away. “You know it’s true.”

The captain’s head is bowed, struggling for air or perhaps composure.

“Captain,” Seven ventures, “are you ill?”

“I’m fine,” says Janeway, but her hands are trembling and her voice catches on the last syllable.

“Doubtful,” Seven retorts, reaching for the medkit stored on the wall and pulling out a tricorder. “You are hyperventilating. Your heart rate is 120 beats per minute and climbing. Are you experiencing nausea, dizziness or faintness? Do your extremities feel numb or tingling? Have you ever –”

“Seven,” B'Elanna interrupts as the captain utters a sound that resembles a sob and seems to crumple over her knees, shaking hands white-knuckling each other. “I think it’s an anxiety attack. Find some ambizine. Twenty micrograms should do it. Captain,” she edges forward, “I want you to listen to my voice, okay? I’m going to sit right here with you and talk to you, and Seven’s going to give you some medicine, and everything’s going to be okay. Just focus on the sound of my voice…”

She keeps talking, keeping her voice soothing and low, as Seven administers the hypospray and slowly, gradually, the captain’s breathing eases and she stops trembling so violently.

When she reaches blindly for B'Elanna’s hand, the engineer has to bite her lip and hold her eyes wide against a sudden onrush of tears.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispers. “Captain, I’m so sorry.”

Janeway nods, squeezing her hand.

“Should we request a medical transport?” Seven asks B'Elanna quietly.

“You most certainly should not.” Janeway’s voice is hoarse, weaker than usual, but still steel-threaded. “Lieutenant, would you accompany me to my quarters?”

B'Elanna nods.

“Sickbay would be more appr-”

“Seven,” B'Elanna cuts in again. “I’ll take care of it.”

She sends Seven ahead to ensure the corridor is clear, then helps the captain navigate her way through the nearest hatch. The muscles in Janeway’s legs are seizing and her arms trembling, and she swears under her breath the entire time, which cheers B'Elanna up significantly.

The turbolift, fortunately, is empty and with Seven scouting ahead, they make it to the captain’s quarters without incident. Seven taps into Janeway’s personal computer and B'Elanna dictates a message to the bridge, advising Chakotay that the captain will be in conference with the chief engineer and is not to be disturbed except for emergencies. The captain’s stricken expression confirms B'Elanna’s guess that Chakotay won’t question this slight breach of communication protocol.

They really are that estranged, then, she thinks, and it saddens her.

“How did you know?” Janeway asks, voice drooping as B'Elanna steers her to the couch and wraps a blanket around her shoulders.

“I’ve had a panic attack or two over the years,” B'Elanna answers. “Tom’s the only one who’s ever been able to talk me through them, though.”

“I suppose it helps that he knows what drugs to give you.” The captain is almost slurring, her fingers lax around the warm cup of cocoa B'Elanna has brought her; Seven’s quick reflexes catch the mug before it can spill.

“It doesn’t hurt,” B'Elanna shrugs. “But it’s the talking that really helps.”

“Yes,” Janeway agrees, “it is.”

She rests her head against the back of the couch, eyes almost closed.

“You can go, Seven,” B'Elanna says softly. “I’ll stay with her.”

Seven nods and departs, and B'Elanna curls up at the other end of the captain’s sofa with a padd, half-reading repair updates while she keeps an eye on the older woman. It’s funny, she muses, how her anger at Janeway has completely disappeared. If anything, her feelings toward the captain are protective. Tender.

“B'Elanna,” Janeway murmurs.

“Yes, Captain?”

“Thanks.”

B'Elanna smiles.

© 2021 by Mia Cooper