Captain's Holiday

Summary: Even the captain deserves a vacation once in a while.

 

Characters: Janeway, Gilmore, OFC

Codes: Janeway/female

 

Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.

Notes: Janeway looked like she couldn’t wait to get off the ship at the beginning of Tsunkatse. And right at the end, she looked pretty damn bright-eyed. Here’s why.

Rated M

Part Two: Rough Trade

​​

Ashmore and Sharr, as it turns out, have managed more than adequately with the list of supplies I’ve asked them to procure for Voyager. We load up the Flyer with several kilotons of various ores, high-end medical tools, freeze-dried foodstuffs and seedlings for planting. I tell them to enjoy the rest of their shore leave – Sharr wants to lie on a beach on the eastern continent, and Ashmore is keen to take in a few Tsunkatse matches – while Gilmore and I head back to Pendari IV.

 

I comm Voyager for a quick check-in; all is well, and Chakotay tells me to enjoy my leave and not come back until he’s fixed the dents his boots are leaving in my desk.

 

Enjoying my leave is one order I intend to follow. My body’s already humming with anticipation at seeing Nayana again, and I can’t help smiling to myself. Meeting her has been so unexpected.

 

It’s not that I had any illusions about this shore leave – I fully intended, right from the beginning, to find someone to play with – but I hadn’t really thought past that first night. If I had any expectations at all, it was that I’d pick up a man, quench a few urges with him and move on. I certainly never thought I’d spend more than one night with the same lover. Or that my lover would be a woman.

 

And I know this dalliance with Nayana can’t last, but I’m sure as hell going to make the most of it while it does.

 

Gilmore clears her throat delicately, breaking into my thoughts. “Do you have plans for this evening, Captain?”

 

“Actually, I do,” I answer, declining to elaborate. “But they don’t involve getting into any more bar fights, so you can stand down for the night, Crewman.”

 

She stiffens. “I apologise if I made you uncomfortable, ma’am. I was only following orders.”

 

“Orders,” I repeat, my spine tightening in annoyance. “From Commander Chakotay.”

 

Wisely, she stays silent. But I’ve been stewing on this for a long time now, and it’s time to have it out.

 

“Exactly when did you and the commander discuss my personal interests, Crewman?”

 

“Uh, a few days before shore leave began, ma’am.”

 

“And might I ask how the topic was raised?”

 

She squirms. “Uh, I ran into the commander in the airponics bay…”

 

“Airponics?” I raise my eyebrows.

 

“I like to spend time in there, ma’am. It reminds me of my mother’s garden at home.” Her eyes flick to mine. “The commander was cutting some roses. I asked who they were for, and he said they were for you.”

 

The roses, I think with a flush of shame. He’d brought them to my quarters that night for our regular working dinner, and I’d been so consumed with my backlogged reports that I’d barely bothered to glance up and wave him toward a vase.

 

“I, uh, mentioned that I thought you’d appreciate the gesture,” Marla continues, twisting her fingers together. “And he said he doubted you’d even notice.”

 

I squeeze my eyes closed.

 

“I’m sorry, Captain, I shouldn’t have repeated that.”

 

“It’s fine.” I wave a hand at her, pretending to concentrate on the helm.

 

“He said you were so swamped with work you probably wouldn’t notice Neelix dancing naked across the bridge, and that he hoped you’d enjoy the chance to relax on your trip. Then he asked me to keep you safe.”

 

Guilt prickles the back of my neck, and it makes me lash out. “I suppose you have these little meetings with the commander quite regularly.”

 

Her brow creases. “If you’re asking whether I go to Chakotay for counselling, the answer is yes, Captain. He made it clear when we came aboard Voyager that he was available any time we needed to talk to someone.”

 

“Something of a conflict of interest, isn’t it?” God, I need to stop myself, but I can’t. This has been festering for far too long.

 

“Ma’am?” she asks cautiously. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

 

“You should choose a different counsellor,” I bite out before I can clamp my mouth shut, “considering your relationship with Chakotay.”

 

“My … relationship?” Her cheeks are starting to burn. “Captain, Chakotay is the first officer and I’m his subordinate. We don’t have the kind of relationship I think you’re implying.”

 

“Don’t you?” I turn to glare at her.

 

To my surprise, she glares right back. “No, we don’t. Whatever may have happened between us when we first met – because it’s clear you know that something happened – it was over even before the Equinox was destroyed. And frankly, Captain,” she inhales sharply, “it’s a personal matter and has nothing to do with the ship.”

 

Well, shit.

 

So I was right all along. He did sleep with her. It surprises me just how deeply that hurts.

 

And with a sinking feeling, I recognise that she’s right, too. What happened between them is none of my damn business, and I’ve just crossed the line. Again.

 

My hands are shaking slightly, but I make the effort to keep my voice low and steady. “You’re right, Marla. I’m sorry.”

 

“Apology accepted,” she says immediately. Clearly, she’s still feeling emboldened, because she goes on, “It meant nothing, you know. It was just … comfort, I guess. We both knew that.” She pauses, then adds carefully, “You have nothing to worry about where I’m concerned.”

 

I shouldn’t ask… I can’t ask. But I do.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Captain, it’s patently obvious he only has eyes for you. You can’t possibly not know that.”

 

I freeze up.

 

“I’m sorry,” she says softly. “It must be difficult for you, not being able to …” she trails off.

 

And I find myself saying, “Yes. It is.”

 

She offers me a smile and we turn back to our stations for the remainder of the trip. As we dock at Pendari IV and power down the Flyer, I give her a brief pat on the shoulder.

 

“Enjoy your night, Marla.”

 

“You too, Captain,” she says, and smiles.

 

===0===

I’m still feeling a little shaken and introspective as I dress slowly for my dinner date.

 

I’ve been assuming, all this time, that Chakotay was making fun of me for Michael Sullivan. Too bad he’s made of photons and forcefields, I’d said, and Chakotay replied, I never let that stand in my way.

 

And I thought he was saying, Poor Kathryn, so desperate for sex, so frightened of human connection that she turns to a walking vibrator.

 

What if I was wrong? What if he really meant the other thing he’d said – that it was nice to see me having some fun?

 

And what does that mean, anyway? That he cares about me – no, name it, Kathryn – loves me – enough to be happy for me, no matter where I find my companionship? Or that he doesn’t care about me in that way anymore?

 

Goddammit, why am I stewing over this right now? I’m dressing to be peeled out of my clothes later by a beautiful, alluring, fascinating woman, and I can’t stop thinking about Chakotay?

 

Screw this.

 

I toss my hairbrush on the nightstand, sling on a jacket and stalk out of my hotel room, hoping I won’t be seeing it again until tomorrow.

 

===0===

Her lips trail softly down the line of my neck and my eyes flutter closed, a sigh rising in my chest. I feel her arms come around me from behind and her fingers tangle with mine. She raises our joined hands to cup my bare breasts, the pads of her fingers tracing slow circles around my hardened nipples.

 

Her touch is light, so deft, I find I’m holding my breath, straining upward on my toes and trying to increase the pressure. Nayana laughs softly, her lips tickling my ear. “Does that feel good, little Kathryn?”

 

“Mm.”

 

She nudges me with her hips, encouraging me to move forward until my thighs press against the bed.

 

“Lean over.”

 

I obey, and she stretches our arms out across the quilt, her soft breasts pressing against my back.

 

“Spread your legs and lie still.”

 

I feel her pull away from me as I shift my thighs apart. She tugs gently on my hips, raising my pelvis to slip a pillow beneath it. I turn my head, trying to catch a glimpse of her.

 

“Close your eyes,” she orders, and I do.

 

I feel the butterfly tickle of her hair sweeping along my spine, her soft lips pressed to the inside of my thigh. Her fingers dip between my legs and my shiver ends on a groan as they slide and press and circle. Then her tongue flicks at me. Slow, broad, flat strokes at first, becoming sharper and quicker until I’m pressing back against her, my hands clenching in the quilt. When she sends me over the edge, my whole body tenses in a crescendo of pleasure, and with a long, low sigh I collapse bonelessly onto the bed.

 

Nayana stretches out beside me, fingertips trailing along my spine, and presses her cheek to my shoulder.

 

“Aren’t you glad,” she murmurs, “that you didn’t go home with some man the night I met you?”

 

I laugh, turning to meet her lips in a lazy kiss that tastes of me.

 

When we break apart I push her gently backward, whispering, “Your turn,” and pepper her throat and collarbone with kisses. She shivers languidly and drapes her arms above her head, arching her back as I rediscover every smooth, silken inch of her skin.

 

===0===

~Good morning, Captain.~

 

“Morning, Crewman.” My response is muffled as I tug a sweater over my head. “Report?”

 

~The bakrinium is ready for transport, ma’am. Just signal me the coordinates when the trade is agreed.~

 

“Acknowledged. Stay on board the Flyer until the trade is complete, then you’re free to spend the rest of your shore leave as you please.”

 

~Understood. Gilmore out.~

 

I close the channel and finish fastening my new leather pants, glancing at my reflection. Not bad, I decide, turning to check the rear view just as Nayana comes out of the bathroom.

 

“Mm.” She curves a hand over my leather-clad ass. “You look amazing in these. If only I had time to rip them off you.”

 

“Unfortunately,” I smirk, “we’ll be late to meet Strake if we don’t move.”

 

She pretends to pout, and I laugh and grab her hand to tug her toward the door with me.

 

“There’ll be plenty of time for fun later,” I promise.

 

Her answering smile is a shade less brilliant than I’ve come to expect, but I shrug it off. We were up most of the night, after all; she’s probably just tired.

 

Strake is waiting, arms folded across his massive chest, when we arrive at the shuttleport. He’s standing by the open cargo hold of a small ship, and gestures flamboyantly inside. “Your dilithium.”

 

I tap into my tricorder as I step inside the shuttle, but the expected trill that should signify several isotons of pure dilithium crystal doesn’t eventuate.

 

The cargo containers are empty.

 

“What is this –” I start, turning.

 

All I see is the blur of a fist just before it impacts with my face.

 

===0===

Lurching my way into consciousness, I’m overwhelmed by a bewildering blend of sensations.

 

There’s a sharp, sickening throb in my head, and opening my eyes sends a stab of nausea into my throat. Trying to swallow against it, I realise I can’t – coarse fabric presses my tongue to the roof of my mouth. When I attempt to remove the gag, I’m stopped by the cold burn of metal manacling my wrists.

 

I crack open my eyes and am unsurprised to find myself staring at what I assume is the ceiling of Strake’s shuttle. The hum and burr of a slightly mistuned warp engine thrums through the deck beneath me. If I had to guess, I’d say we’re travelling at around warp three, but since I have no idea how long I’ve been unconscious I couldn’t begin to guess where we are.

 

Damn it all to hell.

 

You’d think, after more than five years in the Delta quadrant, I’d have learned my lessons by now. Don’t take shore leave. Don’t trust anyone. And never, ever try to negotiate a trade deal alone.

 

Oh, and the big one?

 

Don’t ever believe that a little bit of romance comes without a hefty price tag.

 

Although that one has less to do with the Delta quadrant and everything to do with being Kathryn Janeway.

 

Swearing internally, I push my feet against something solid, working carefully to sit upright. The shuttle’s cargo bay is cavernous, with corridors leading off in several directions. It’s also empty aside from a few badly-secured cargo containers. The bakrinium I was supposed to trade isn’t here, so clearly Strake hasn’t kidnapped me for a few tons of free minerals.

 

So what’s in it for him? And how the hell do I get out of this situation without any help –

 

“… may have skills, but she’s too small,” I hear a male voice grumbling from the corridor. Strake. “Penk won’t want her. Better to offload her to the brothels. She’s pretty enough.”

 

“Not to mention her skills in that area.”

 

Oh God, that’s Nayana’s voice, cool and amused. Traitorous bitch! I can hear their footsteps getting closer and I shrink into the shadows, struggling to escape my bonds before they enter the cargo bay.

 

Strake laughs, and Nayana goes on, “As much as I enjoyed testing her out, I think Penk could make use of her. And you know he’ll pay three times as much for a Tsunkatse fighter as he would for a whore. He could throw her into a red match next week and she’d still earn him more than in a month at the brothels.”

 

I pause in my attempt to shove the metal cuffs over my scraped and bleeding wrists. They want to sell me. Like livestock.

 

That bar fight, I realise, was staged. Strake wanted to see if I could punch my weight.

 

Which means Nayana was assessing me for the other reason.

 

Gritting my teeth, I use my own blood to ease the passage of the cuffs over my wrists. I’ve barely got my hands free when Nayana and Strake come into view. Quickly, I press my wrists together behind my back.

 

“Hello, little Kathryn,” my erstwhile lover smirks. “I see you’re back in the land of the living.”

 

Still gagged, I glare at her malevolently.

 

Nayana laughs, crouching beside me to work the gag carefully from between my teeth. “Sorry, little one,” she murmurs. “If it makes you feel any better, I’ll miss our nights together.”

 

“Fuck you,” I growl, spitting loose thread.

 

Strake snorts. “Save it for your clients, sweetheart.”

 

Nayana’s cool fingers probe the lump on my forehead and I stifle a wince. “Does that hurt?” she asks.

 

“What do you think?”

 

“Strake,” she says over her shoulder, “go and get me a regenerator. Whether Penk wants her for fighting or fucking, he’ll want her unmarked.”

 

The Pendaran rolls his eyes and ambles away.

 

Nayana turns back to me, her fingers combing through my hair. “I really am sorry, little one,” she murmurs. “I’d prefer to keep you, but –”

 

Before she can spout any more honeyed lies, I rock back on my heels, bring my arms out from behind me and clap them hard on either side of her head.

 

She staggers backward and falls to the deck, and I’m up in an instant, crouching over her with the flat of my arm against her throat. Nayana stares up at me, eyes wide, gasping as I rock my weight against her windpipe.

 

“I’m Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager,” I grit at her. “And nobody – nobody – owns me, you double-crossing bitch.”

 

===0===

I deal Nayana the Vulcan nerve pinch – thank you, Tuvok – and tie her up, shoving her inert form behind one of the empty cargo containers, then prowl the bay in search of a weapon. There are no phasers here, but I find a length of duranium pipe lying next to a disassembled access port. I weigh it in my hands and decide it’ll do just fine.

 

As long as I have the element of surprise.

 

Which, as the point of a disruptor digs into the back of my neck, I realise I’ve lost.

 

“Drop it,” Strake warns.

 

Reluctantly I let the pipe fall to the deck.

 

“Hands up,” he orders, then gives me a shove that makes me stumble a step or two. “Turn around slowly.”

 

I find myself face to face with a mean-looking weapon that I’m willing to bet is not set on stun.

 

“Where is Nayana?”

 

I jerk my head toward the cargo container.

 

“Did you kill her?”

 

I shrug. “She had it coming.” At Strake’s growl, I roll my eyes. “No, I didn’t kill her. Unlike you, I don’t make a habit of inflicting violence on others. Unless they deserve it.”

 

Strake snorts. “Perhaps you won’t make a suitable whore after all. Penk doesn’t take kindly to girls attacking his clients. Besides, you’re a trickier fighter than I suspected. Tsunkatse would be lucky to have you.”

 

“How gratifying,” I drawl.

 

He bares his teeth at me and waves the muzzle of his disruptor. “Hands behind your head. Move.”

 

I amble slowly down the corridor he indicates, my eyes darting side to side in hope of finding something I can use to distract him and relieve him of his weapon. “So, where are we going?” I ask nonchalantly.

 

“Need to know basis,” he grunts. “And you don’t.”

 

“Charming,” I mutter. Then, louder, “Did you really have dilithium to trade, or was that just a ploy?”

 

Strake laughs rudely. “Honey, as soon as I’ve sold your pretty little ass, I’ll have enough credits to buy a year’s worth of dilithium.”

 

I risk a glance over my shoulder, but the harsh jab of his disruptor against my shoulderblade forces me to face front. “If it’s credits you want, I’ll match what this Penk is offering you, with a sweetener on top. How does ten kilotons of bakrinium sound?”

 

“Like a one-way ticket to a red match against a Hirogen,” he retorts. “I double-cross Penk and he’ll kill me. No thanks, little one. You’d better get used to the idea of –”

 

The shuttle lurches sharply, throwing both of us against the starboard corridor wall. Weapons fire. I hear Strake curse as he hits the wall hard. His disruptor clatters to the deck. He’s still picking himself up by the time I’ve rolled to my knees, grabbed the weapon and pointed it directly at his head.

 

Bracing myself as the ship bucks again, I order, “Take us to your control centre. Now.”

 

“Or what, you’ll kill me?” He wipes the blood off his forehead. “Without me, you’ll never be able to fly this ship.”

 

“By the looks of it, someone isn’t too pleased with you,” I reply evenly as alarms go off throughout the corridor. “So if you don’t do as I say, pretty soon there won’t be a ship left to fly. Now move.”

 

He snarls at me, but as whoever’s firing at us hits a weak point in the shields and the corridor begins to fill with smoke, his expression changes to unease. “Fine, fine,” he growls. “This way.”

 

One hand on the wall for balance, I follow him onto the bridge and almost laugh in relief. There, hanging directly in front of the main viewport, is none other than the Delta Flyer.

 

Strake swears again. “Whoever that is, they’re trying to hail us.”

 

“Then answer it.” I raise the weapon warningly as he moves toward one of the control stations. “Carefully.”

 

His movements are exaggerated as he reaches to flip a switch. “Channel open.”

 

~Delta Flyer to Pendari vessel,~ says Marla Gilmore, her voice steely. ~Our weapons are trained on you and your shields will not withstand them. Respond immediately or we will disable your ship.~

 

Strake opens his mouth, but I raise a hand to silence him. “This is Captain Janeway to the Delta Flyer,” I say clearly. “I’ve taken control of this vessel. Please beam Mr Strake directly to a stasis tube while I lock down this ship.”

 

~It’s good to hear your voice, Captain.~ Marla sounds genuinely relieved. ~Are you all right?~

 

“Just a bump to the head. I’ll be fine.” I keep my weapon trained on Strake. “Initiate transport when ready, then contact the Pendari authorities and tell them we’ve apprehended a pair of human traffickers.”

 

~My pleasure, ma’am,~ she says emphatically. ~Flyer out.~

 

Strake dematerialises before me and I sit before the control station, quickly deciphering it and shutting down the ship’s engines. Then, disruptor in hand, I make my way back to the cargo bay to deal with Nayana.

 

===0===

After the Pendari authorities have arrived to haul Strake and Nayana off to some Pendari prison, I beam over to the Flyer, heaving a sigh of relief at being back on home turf.

 

“Captain,” Gilmore exclaims, rushing toward me. “Oh God, you’re hurt.”

 

Taken aback, I try to wave her off. “It’s nothing.”

 

“Please, sit down,” she urges, rummaging in a medkit and advancing on me with a tricorder and dermal regenerator. “Chakotay is going to kill me,” I hear her mutter under her breath as she waves the instruments over the cut on my head.

 

“It’s hardly your fault,” I point out. “Besides, I’ve had much worse.”

 

“It is my fault.” She bites her lip as she finishes healing the abraded skin on my wrists and uses a sonic cleanser to remove the blood. “I knew there was something suspicious about those two. I shouldn’t have let you go off on your own.”

 

Let me?” My tone is dangerous, and she flushes.

 

“Sorry, Captain. I meant no disrespect.”

 

“Take the helm,” I order, then deliberately calm my voice. “And thanks for the rescue.”

 

Gilmore bobs her head and slides quickly behind the flight console.

 

I watch her surreptitiously from the ops station as we wing our way back to Pendari IV. Her shoulders are hunched, her face tight and drawn. And I wonder if this is her natural state of being – anxious, wound so tight she’s almost quivering – or if this is what happened to her on the Equinox.

 

In the six months that she and her crewmates have been on my ship, I have gone out of my way to pretend they don’t exist. I avoid Noah Lessing for obvious reasons – I did make a rather stilted apology to him, but that incident is something I prefer not to think about – but the others seem to have faded deliberately into the background. And for the first time, I wonder if that’s down to my obvious antipathy toward them.

 

“Marla.”

 

She starts. “Yes, Captain?”

 

“How are you finding it, being on Voyager?”

 

Her hands still, and I watch her heave in a breath and bite her lip.

 

I swivel my chair toward her. “Speak freely, Marla.”

 

“All right.” She forces herself to meet my eyes. “Please don’t think I’m complaining, Captain, because life on Voyager is so much better than – than before, and not just because I have a clean bed to sleep in and food to eat. But it’s…” she hesitates, “very lonely.”

 

Something in her voice – a tremble, a rasp – pierces right through my chest. “Go on,” I encourage her gently.

 

“Nobody is unkind to us,” she says haltingly. “But we – the five of us – spend all our off-duty hours together. Sometimes Lieutenant Paris or Ensign Kim will invite us to the holodeck, but it … it feels like an afterthought. We don’t sit with the Voyagers in the mess hall, and sometimes when we walk into a room everyone goes quiet as if they’ve just been talking about us. Nobody ever mentions the Equinox – not even us. I think they’d prefer to forget it ever existed, and us along with it.” She pauses, looks down at her clasped hands. “Please don’t ever think we aren’t grateful, Captain. But we’re not really part of your crew.”

 

Part of my crew.

 

Once, a very long time ago, Chakotay accused me of treating the Maquis differently to my original Starfleet crewmembers. He said I wasn’t willing to give them a fair chance to prove themselves. And he was right.

 

And here I am, doing it again.

 

“I’m sorry, Captain,” Gilmore says dejectedly when I remain silent. “You’ve been more than fair to us, considering what we did on the Equinox. We don’t deserve to be serving alongside the Voyager crew.”

 

“Oh, Marla.” I sigh, reaching over to take her hand. “Since you joined my crew, your department heads have reported that you all perform your duties without complaint and to an exemplary standard, even though I know you’re all overqualified for the positions you’ve been assigned to. As for what happened on the Equinox…”

 

I hesitate. How can I explain this to her?

 

“What your captain did was a betrayal of everything I stand for,” I begin. “And, I’ll be honest, the way he died – giving his life to save the five of you, and my ship – I felt as though he’d cheated me. He ended up going out, if not a hero, at least redeemed to some degree. And I lost my chance for vengeance.”

 

Marla’s eyes widen.

 

“Yes,” I confirm. “I wanted retribution on Rudy Ransom for disgracing Starfleet and for committing genocide. But most of all, I wanted revenge on him because he threw Voyager to the wolves.”

 

I release her hand so I can stand and pace; I’ve never been able to bare my soul without it.

 

“I wanted him to pay,” I continue. “More than that, I wanted him to suffer. I was so very angry with him and with Burke, and by extension, with all of you. And I’ve allowed that anger to affect you. I haven’t given you a fair chance, Marla. And because of that, you haven’t been able to integrate into my crew –” I stop, turning to face her. “Our crew. Because you are part of this crew. And from this point on, I’ll make sure you’re treated the same way as all of the other wayward sheep we’ve folded into our ranks.”

 

Gilmore smiles, but it’s not a full smile. “Captain, thank you, but we don’t deserve that. We followed Rudy’s orders even after Voyager came to our rescue. We knew exactly what we were doing, we knew it was wrong, and we did it anyway. There’s no excuse for that.”

 

“No, there isn’t,” I agree. “And there’s no excuse for my actions at the time either. So what do you say we give each other a clean slate from now on?”

 

She nods hesitantly, then more firmly. “I won’t let you down, Captain.”

 

I perch on the edge of my chair. “I know you won’t, Marla. You’ve proven that to me today.”

 

She gives me a proper smile and we turn back to our consoles.

 

“Captain?” she says after several minutes of silence.

 

“Yes?”

 

“I just wanted to say thank you.”

 

“For what?”

 

“For not being Rudy Ransom.” Gilmore bites her lip. “You don’t know what it means to me – to all of us – to have a captain we can look up to.”

 

I let that sink in for a moment.

 

I’m still working through my guilt and shame over my actions during the Equinox debacle. Threatening Noah Lessing, chasing after Ransom out of vengeance, relieving Chakotay of duty – it certainly wasn’t my finest hour. But I’m starting to get the feeling that Marla Gilmore appreciates my self-recrimination over it. Maybe what she and her crewmates needed wasn’t Ransom’s opposite – a rule-bound, virtuous, dispassionate captain – but a human being who tries to do the right thing and sometimes gets it wrong.

 

And with Marla’s obvious forgiveness, I find I’m starting to forgive myself as well.

 

“You know,” I muse, “we still have almost three weeks of shore leave left. What do you say we make the most of it?”

 

She flicks me a quick glance. “What did you have in mind, Captain?”

 

I tap into the navigational console, bringing up a map of the sector. “Over here,” I point, “there’s a little planet called Sivalor. I’m told it’s known for its sunny beaches and spa resorts. We could be there in thirty-six hours.”

 

She grins. “I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I had my nails done.”

 

“Or soaked in a hot spring. I do love a bath.”

 

“And I’d kill for a really good massage.”

 

An image flashes through my mind – strong brown hands kneading my shoulders – and I push it away resolutely. “Me, too.”

 

Gilmore enters the coordinates. “Warp six, Captain?”

 

“Engage.”

 

I settle into my chair and rest my crossed ankles on the console, smiling.

 

===0===

After two weeks at Sivalor’s premier luxury resort, our normal pallor has taken on a golden sheen, our hair is sun-streaked and our bodies toned and pummelled, and Marla Gilmore and I are more relaxed than I suspect either of us has been since before the Delta quadrant. As we set a course for Pendari II to pick up Sharr and Ashmore, we settle into a comfortable silence.

 

I’ve come to know her pretty well over these past couple of weeks. She’s knowledgeable about gardening and sailing and exobiology. We’ve discovered a shared passion for gothic holonovels and a hatred of stewed apples, and her repertoire of Klingon cursewords would impress B’Elanna Torres. It certainly impresses me. More than that, though, I’ve discovered she’s thoughtful and gentle-natured and kind, and the one thing she wants most is a family.

 

I can’t give her back her Alpha quadrant life, the life where she could have settled down with a mate and a child of her own. But I can give her a community, a sense of belonging. Out here, that’s the best we can hope for.

 

I’m still thinking about our Voyager family as we reach orbit of Pendari II and transport Ashmore and Sharr aboard the Flyer. This shore leave has been good for me in ways I didn’t expect. It’s certainly reminded me of a few home truths about trust, and who I can depend on, and who I shouldn’t take for granted.

 

And then we get word from Voyager that Tuvok and Seven have gone missing and Seven’s in the Tsunkatse pit fighting a Pendaran, and our shore leave comes to an abrupt end.

 

===0===

“Captain.”

 

I slow my stride through the corridor and wait for Gilmore to catch me up. “Crewman. Good work today.”

 

Marla Gilmore was the one who figured out how to disable the signal generators on Penk’s ship. Without her quick calculations and fine aim, we might not have Seven back. In fact, without her, Voyager might have been destroyed; as soon as the Tsunkatse ship rotated its forcefields, Marla found a power fluctuation in its shield grid and took out power to their bridge.

 

“I’d like you to know I’ll be putting a commendation in your record,” I tell her as she falls into step beside me. “Not only for saving Seven and the ship today, but for coming to my rescue two weeks ago.”

 

Her smile is delighted. “Thank you, Captain. I appreciate that.”

 

“No, thank you.” I pat her on the shoulder. “Was there something you wanted?”

 

“Actually …” She glances quickly around, making sure the corridor is empty. “I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed our vacation, ma’am. To be honest, I was terrified of spending so much time alone with you. I certainly didn’t expect it to be so much fun.”

 

“Nothing like a kidnap and rescue to bring people together, huh?” I smile at her. “In all seriousness, Marla – I’ve enjoyed spending time with you, too. And I hope this will be a new beginning for both of us – you with integrating into the crew, and –”

 

“– and you with realising you don’t have to be so alone all the time?”

 

She blushes as I stop and raise an eyebrow at her.

 

“Sorry, that was out of line.” I watch her bite her lip in that way she does when she’s gathering her courage. “At the risk of pushing my luck, though, Captain – you don’t have to be lonely. I’d like to think we could play hoverball once in a while. And I know someone else who’d be overjoyed to get closer to you.” She brushes a finger across her left temple, just in case I’m dense enough to miss her meaning.

 

Which I’m not.

 

For a moment, I’m tempted to pull back, wrap myself in my pips and uniform and blast her with a frosty reprimand. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned these past few weeks, it’s that being the captain twenty four-seven isn’t working for me. And I don’t want to be that bitter, isolated hell-bitch I’d been gradually morphing into before shore leave.

 

“Your suggestion is duly noted, Crewman,” I tell her dryly as we resume our course for the turbolift. “And, barring emergency, I wouldn’t mind a game of hoverball tomorrow evening. Report to the holodeck and prepare to get your ass kicked.”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” she laughs, peeling off toward her quarters as the turbolift doors open and Chakotay steps out.

 

His face creases into that blinding grin that never fails to warm my insides, and he reaches for the duffel I have slung over my shoulder.

 

“Welcome back, Kathryn,” he says. “How was shore leave?”

 

“It was … an adventure,” I reply, tucking my arm into his offered elbow. “But I’m happy to be home.”

© 2021 by Mia Cooper