Summary: “I don't want them to know my secrets. I don't want them to know the way I loved him.”
Home isn’t quite what Kathryn hoped for, but at least she has her regular coffee dates with Phoebe.
Characters: Janeway, Phoebe Janeway, Chakotay
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway & Phoebe Janeway
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
No actual murder here… just a whole lot of lying.
Also inspired by Hurts Like Hell by Fleurie.
“Doesn’t it fit right, Admiral?”
Kathryn frowns at Phoebe’s question.
“The uniform,” her sister gestures. “That’s the third time you’ve tried to loosen your collar.”
Kathryn drops her hand. “Maybe it’s the rank bars that aren’t sitting quite right.”
“Uh-huh,” says Phoebe. She’s using that tone that drives Kathryn crazy. “I don’t think it’s the rank, Katie. You were born to be brass.”
She sips her coffee and watches Kathryn from over the rim of her cup.
“I think it’s your conscience.”
Kathryn sets her own cup in her saucer with a click. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Phoebe waves a hand in the direction of Kathryn’s padd, face down on the table. “I saw your unread messages. Just how many people have you been ignoring?”
“I’ve been busy.”
“Not too busy to jump the instant Starfleet summons you.”
“That’s work. It’s different.”
“Or to meet me for coffee three times a week.”
Kathryn sips silently and avoids Phoebe’s eye.
“I couldn’t help noticing how many of those unread comms were from your former crew,” Phoebe continues, watching her closely. “How long has it been since you saw them?”
“I see them.” Kathryn is long practised at concealing irritation, defensiveness, annoyance … but Phoebe always could get under her skin.
“Yeah, at HQ, official briefings. Maybe Starfleet parties too,” Phoebe says. “You know that’s not what I mean.”
She pauses, lets the quiet grow between them.
Kathryn knows she’s perfectly capable of waiting Phoebe out, but as the moments stretch to minutes, the absurdity of it registers. They’re not teenagers anymore, giving each other the silent treatment over some exaggerated or imagined slight.
She sets down her empty cup.
“I know what you mean, Phoebe.” She keeps her voice light. “And you’re right – I haven’t seen much of my former crew outside of official channels. I – needed a break, I suppose.”
“What about your first officer?” Phoebe asks. “Don’t you want to talk to him?”
“I needed a break from him most of all.”
The honesty of it startles her, as does Phoebe’s reply.
“I don’t believe you.”
“I don’t care what you believe,” Kathryn can’t stop herself from retorting. “You try spending every single day for seven years beside a person. Then come tell me how you feel.”
“You mean, seven years beside a man who supports and challenges you, sacrifices everything for you, and saves you from your worst habits?” Phoebe narrows her eyes. “Sounds terrible. No wonder you can’t stand the sight of him.”
Kathryn glares. “Where on earth did you get the idea that Chakotay earned a sainthood for putting up with me?”
“That’s not what I meant,” Phoebe says, refusing to rise. “All I’m saying is that it must be strange not to see him every day. The two of you must have grown pretty close out there.”
“Now you sound like a gossip columnist.”
“All right then,” smirks Phoebe. “Just how close did you get?”
Kathryn opens her mouth to tell her sister about working dinners and pool tournaments and holoprograms. About bug bites, brainwashing and Dante.
About dark men and blonde women.
To tell her everything.
But nothing comes out except a truth so reductive it might as well be a lie.
“We were friends.”
He took her hand to place it on the akoonah, and the words she’d been about to say vanished from her lips.
As he explained the meditative process with his fingers still curled around hers, she catalogued sensations and the feelings they provoked in her.
She had learned to use this technique long ago – observing her own reactions, her emotions, through an analytical lens – so that she wouldn’t feel everything so much, but her science was failing her now. She was glad when Chakotay told her to close her eyes. Nothing else would have hidden the tears she knew were shining in them.
In the months afterward, as though the vision quest was a secret that had bonded them, he began to treat her less with scrupulously professional courtesy and more as though they were colleagues and equals.
But it wasn’t until the next time he touched her – his hand on her shoulder, her choking back her tears as they stood in an empty cargo bay – that she realised they had become friends.
Kathryn slides into the seat across from her sister. “Sorry I’m late.”
Phoebe says nothing; just gives her a thorough once-over, no doubt cataloguing Kathryn’s pallor and shadowed eyes. A waiter appears and Kathryn orders a triple espresso.
“Did you pull another all-nighter?” Phoebe asks mildly.
“Don’t judge me,” Kathryn sighs. “You wouldn’t believe how much paperwork a vice-admiral gets. I thought I had it bad on Voyager.”
The waiter deposits her coffee and Kathryn brings it to her lips with an ecstatic groan.
“Don’t you have an aide you can delegate the boring stuff to?”
“Of course. But explaining what I need done takes so long. Decan is a quick study, but he just doesn’t know me the way Chakotay does…” Kathryn trails off, and at Phoebe’s raised, expectant eyebrow, forces herself to correct: “Did.”
“Ah,” says Phoebe. “Too bad you can’t demote Chakotay to the position again.”
“Although, who knows. Maybe he’d jump at the chance to serve under you again,” Phoebe continues. “Maybe even in an unofficial capacity.”
“Phoebe, shut up.”
“You love my smart ass.”
“That’s what you think.” Kathryn raises her cup to hide her smile. “Sometimes I think I should’ve just stayed in the Delta quadrant.”
“You’d need a better reason to stay than just avoiding your younger and better sister.” Phoebe watches her, smirking. “So have you called him yet?”
“I’m not even going to dignify that with an answer.”
Kathryn looks away. “He’s on a study mission. In the Vega sector.”
“For how long?”
“A few weeks,” she replies, as though she doesn’t know, to the hour, when Voyager is due back in spacedock.
“And how long has it been since you spoke to him?” Phoebe waits. “Kathryn?”
Phoebe’s eyes widen. “You haven’t talked since debriefings?”
Kathryn thinks back to the weeks after Voyager’s return. The wrought, exhausting hours she’d spent in conference with an endless procession of admirals, each of them questioning her decisions, her actions, her sanity. Her obsessive insistence on finding loved ones to welcome each and every member of her crew, and if that wasn’t possible, to find them sanctuary. Her dogged refusal to let a single scrap of blame or censure fall on any Voyager crew but herself.
Her incandescent fury, listening to Chakotay’s testimony, to his flat avowals that if there was any retribution to be meted for her actions in the Delta quadrant, he should be equally punished.
Their chance encounter, later, in a dim and empty corridor, and the argument that ensued. His refusal to let her protect him. You can’t order me to stand down this time, Kathryn.
The friction that spiralled between them.
The unexpected, heated resolution – pressed to a wall, her hands wrapped in his hair, his palming away her uniform – and afterwards, the bitter words she’d been unable to stop.
You’re still under my command. And this was a mistake.
And, finally, watching him walk away. Letting him go, even though she knew it might be the last time she saw him.
“No,” she says, quietly, to Phoebe. “We haven’t spoken since then.”
“It occurs to me that we aren’t exactly in a command structure anymore,” she’d mused aloud, and Chakotay had taken that to mean that no vestiges of Starfleet’s trappings were required.
Within hours he had shucked his uniform in favour of roughspun linens and soft leather boots. He stopped gelling his hair tame; he spoke differently, and even walked with a loose swagger, the way he had when he’d stepped onto her bridge all those months ago.
She, despite her bold words, could not let go so easily.
It was several mornings before, rising, her hand hovered over the neatly hung uniform in her tiny closet, and moved deliberately to a cornflower blue dress instead.
Leaving her hair down was a decision she hesitated over for longer.
She tried not to feel self-conscious, emerging from her alcove into the communal part of the shelter. But Chakotay’s eyes widened a little and his gaze wandered over her, lingering on her loose hair. And though he greeted her with friendly neutrality, she knew that in that moment something had irrevocably changed between them.
Kathryn observes her sister as Phoebe collapses onto the banquette beside her, enormous sunglasses obscuring her eyes.
“Oh my God,” Phoebe moans, “get me the largest bucket of coffee in existence,” and her head lolls on the cushioned seat back.
“What’s the matter with you?” Kathryn demands. “Are you hungover?”
“More like drunk,” Phoebe chortles. “Love-drunk.”
“You met someone?”
“Completely by chance.” Phoebe sits up and takes off her sunglasses; her eyes are red-rimmed with fatigue, but there’s no dulling the way she shines. “If I hadn’t been early to meet my art director yesterday I’d never have had to kill time in the gallery. I’d never have decided to visit the exhibition by that Trill sculptor Mom mentioned she wanted to check out. And I’d never have met Kell Odan.”
“The sculptor? What are they like?”
“The very same.” Phoebe grabs her newly arrived coffee with both hands and embraces it. “And they’re dreamy. And extremely talented, if you get what I mean,” she purrs.
Kathryn hides a smirk behind her cup. “You know Captain Riker hosted Odan once, don’t you?”
“Will Riker?” Phoebe almost drops her cup. “He was joined with Odan?”
“Briefly, a decade ago or so, when Odan’s previous host died during peace negotiations. It didn’t take very well.”
“Kell didn’t mention that last night,” Phoebe murmurs. “But I guess we were too busy for life stories. Especially considering Odan has several of those.”
“Sounds like you two hit it off.”
“Katie, I think I’m in love.”
Kathryn rolls her eyes.
“Well, you certainly have that glow,” she says, trying not to let envy seep into her tone. But Phoebe hears it anyway.
“You know exactly how to go get a glow of your own.”
She found herself daydreaming during bridge shifts, replaying those endless sunwashed afternoons on the planet. Remembering how he’d learned to touch her, learned her slowly, with exquisite care. Like they had all the time in the world.
She daydreamed even when he was sitting right beside her. Even when they met in her ready room – strictly official, as she’d stipulated and he’d agreed on their return to the ship – and she listened to him summarise the department heads’ reports, or served him tea or planned their next trade negotiation.
She even daydreamed when he was stretched out across her couch, or rubbing the knots from her shoulders, or when she lay enclosed in his arms in the bed they had shared every night since New Earth.
It wasn’t possible, she fretted in her shaky or self-conscious moments, that the crew was blind to it. She could even see it in the mirror. She was satisfied. Content. She glowed.
And just as she’d almost convinced herself not to mind – convinced herself that she could have this, with him – they blundered right into a war, and Chakotay betrayed her.
And it was over.
“How is Kell?”
“Phenomenal.” Phoebe wriggles more comfortably into her armchair. “You have to meet them, Katie. I think I’ll throw a dinner party. You can bring along one of your admirals, or that Betazoid politician who keeps calling you. Or maybe a sexy captain.”
Kathryn attempts a smile.
“Uh-oh.” Phoebe leans in. “What happened?”
“Nothing happened.” Kathryn sighs. “Nothing except that reporter ambushing me again.”
“The one from the Star?”
“Yes, the persistent one. She’s determined to write a tell-all about Voyager in the Delta quadrant, and of all the dirt she could dig up, she’s decided to focus on whether I was banging my first officer.”
Phoebe isn’t one bit fooled by Kathryn’s flippant tone.
“Well, were you?”
“I’m only asking,” her sister says easily. “And I know I’m not the first.”
“Well, people need to mind their own damn business.”
“People who say that usually have business other people would love to mind,” says Phoebe. “So maybe you should do a little business with them on your own terms.”
Kathryn puzzles that one out. “Are you saying I should give that reporter a story?”
“I’m saying you should give her a narrative that you control,” Phoebe emphasises. “Give her enough truth that she won’t find the lie in it.”
“It’s not only my story,” Kathryn points out.
“So give her something that’s only about you.”
Kathryn stares, unseeing, at the steam curling languidly from her cup of coffee.
“I don’t want them to know my secrets,” she says, painfully. “I don’t want them to know the way I loved him.”
“Why?” Phoebe asks gently. “What does it matter what they think?”
Kathryn crimps a napkin between her fingers, truth warring with murderous lies inside her.
“I don’t care what they think,” she finally blurts. “I care what he thinks. I care how he feels.”
Phoebe, master of silences, lets her confession fill the space between them.
Eventually she says, “You know there’s only one way to find out how he feels.”
“What if he doesn’t feel the way I do?” Kathryn fiddles with her napkin. “What if he doesn’t feel anything at all?”
“I guess you’ll never know until you ask.”
It was the first time her sense of him had truly been shaken.
And with it, her belief that no matter what, he was on her side.
Not even the Equinox had shattered her like this. But then, nothing could possibly compare to mutiny.
Huddled in that cell, her stomach twisted with the fear that she would never have her ship returned to her. Her crew returned to her.
And worse even than the implacable distance in Tuvok’s eyes had been the way it felt when Chakotay looked at her like a stranger.
When he’d ordered Tuvok to shoot her, as if she were nothing but an inconvenience. As if she meant nothing.
When it was all over, she found that she couldn’t forgive him. Worse, she couldn’t bring herself to be alone with him. Not even in the earliest days, back in Kazon space, had she been afraid of him.
She didn’t trust him, and that made her wonder how long it had been since he really trusted her.
And then, months later, something changed. After the chroniton anomaly splintered the ship, he was different. Easier with her, teasing like the old days, although without the sizzling tension that used to spark between them. Like two old friends.
She much preferred it to the unquiet détente that preceded it, of course. But she wondered if she had lost something irreplaceable.
“I took your advice.”
Phoebe looks up from the sugar bowl, surprised. “That’s a first. What advice did you take?”
“I set up an interview with that woman from the Star. I think it’s time I … well, spun the narrative. Otherwise people will just carry on making things up.”
“So what are you going to tell her?”
“I’m not sure yet,” admits Kathryn. “The truth, but not the whole of it. I was hoping … maybe you could help me figure it out?”
“I could. I’ve had plenty of practice with the press,” Phoebe says. “But you know I’m not the person you should be talking to about this.”
Kathryn concedes that with a tilt of her head.
“So,” Phoebe continues, “when will he be back from Vega?”
Kathryn bites her lip. “Voyager got into spacedock two days ago.”
“And where is Chakotay, exactly?”
“At his house in Las Cruces. At least, I assume so. He put in for some leave, but he didn’t report any plan to travel.” At Phoebe’s enquiring eyebrow, she explains, “Active duty officers are required to state their intended whereabouts while on sanctioned leave.”
“That explains why Starfleet always knew where to find you when you were supposedly taking a well-deserved rest. Not that you weren’t champing at the bit to get back to work when they called.” Phoebe plays with the sugar spoon. “So, when are you transporting to New Mexico?”
Kathryn swallows. “I was thinking of going today.”
A slow smile takes over Phoebe’s face. “Well, if it isn’t Kathryn Daredevil Janeway. Good for you.”
Kathryn rolls her eyes, gathers her padds, and rises.
“You’re going now? This very minute?”
“Right now,” she affirms. Despite her trepidation, her heart is light. “Thanks, Phoebe. I guess I’ll let you know how it goes.”
“Break a leg,” Phoebe calls after her, amusement bubbling in her voice. “Oh, and Katie?”
“Please don’t go to him in uniform.”
Chakotay’s house is the colour of sand and sprawls across the last plot in the row, half neatly clipped grass, half rock garden. Tall yuccas in terracotta pots stand like sentries either side of the front door. There are eleven of them; six on the left, five on the right. Kathryn knows this because, from where she stands nearby, beneath a spreading Joshua tree, loitering – procrastinating – she has counted them several times over.
She could have transported directly here; as an admiral, she has that privilege. But she’d needed a little extra time to work herself up to it, not to mention finalise her speech, so she’d used the public transporter station instead.
Her sandals are dusty from the road now, and her tunic sticks to her back, and she’s so thirsty she could drink leola juice. And still she can’t make herself move.
That is, until Chakotay’s front door opens and he leans in the doorway, arms folded, biceps swelling against his chest. He stares directly at her.
“Are you planning on hovering there all day, Admiral, or are you coming over here to talk to me?”
Kathryn straightens her back and walks up the long pathway to his house. She climbs the three steps to his porch, relieved to be shaded from the sun.
He says nothing. His demeanour isn’t forbidding, exactly, but neither is it welcoming.
And she can hardly blame him.
“It’s been awhile,” she ventures. “How have you been?”
She lifts a shoulder. “Busy.”
“What are you doing here, Admiral?” he asks her. “Am I being recalled from leave for a mission of some kind?”
His gaze flickers over her: loose hair, dusty sandals, wrinkled cornflower blue tunic.
“Or is this a social call?”
“I came to warn you –” she corrects herself, “to let you know that I’ve agreed to speak to a reporter from the Star. To get her off my back about us.”
“Us,” he repeats, flat.
“Yes. She’s been angling for a story for months now. So I’m going to give her one – with your permission.”
Chakotay’s eyebrows are high. “What exactly are you going to tell her?”
“I was rather hoping you could help me figure that out.”
If she didn’t know him so well, she might have missed the smile he ducks his head to conceal. His voice is mellower when he speaks.
“You have some nerve, Kathryn Janeway.”
“You haven’t given me the time of day in over six months, and now you show up on my doorstep out of the blue, telling me you’re planning to give some gossip columnist a juicy story. About us.”
Kathryn tilts her head. “It’s as good an excuse as any.”
“Excuse for what?”
“To see you.” She draws a breath. “I’ve missed you.”
Emboldened, she half-steps closer and looks up into his face. His expression has softened, and the faintest smile creases the corner of his lips.
“Are you going to throw me off your doorstep?” she chances.
Chakotay unfolds his arms, dimples deepening, and holds out a hand. She stares at it for a moment, then places her own in his palm.
His fingers close over hers, warm, bringing tears to her eyes. Just like all those years ago, over the akoonah.
“Come inside,” he invites, and tugs, and she steps over the threshold and into his arms.