Pressure

Summary: Captain Chakotay's Starfleet crew and Kathryn Janeway's Maquis have merged into one crew aboard the Federation starship Voyager, stranded 70,000 light years from their homes. The command team must find a way to reconcile their past relationship. Old betrayals, new attractions and the dangers of an unknown quadrant are brought into play when the one crewmember who belongs nowhere is caught up in an interstellar conspiracy.

 

Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Kim, Torres, Kes, Tuvok, EMH, VOY crew

Codes: Janeway/Paris, Janeway/Chakotay, Kim/Torres

 

Disclaimer: A company named Paramount would likely be disturbed about my borrowing its characters. But it's not fattening my purse.

 

Related episodes: Caretaker and Ex Post Facto.

Rated T

Chapter Four

Stardate 48611.6



Kathryn came to an abrupt halt outside Holodeck 2. What the hell am I doing here?

Looking for a friend. She snorted. Who needed friends? Friends got themselves killed, or tortured, or were unmasked as traitors. So much for Tuvok, her navigator on the Liberty, who'd been a Starfleet spy all along. Had me fooled. After almost six months, it still rankled.

So much for Chakotay.

She brushed it aside. Friends. If she had to choose one on this ship, it wouldn't be Tom Paris. She leant against the wall. She should just get out of here. Go back to her quarters, where no-one would bother her. Where no- one would expect anything of her.

She heard footsteps.

"Commander!"

Oh Christ. Ensign Eager. "Mr Kim," she said smartly, and made to push past him.

"Were you waiting for the holodeck, sir?"

"No, Ensign. Carry on."

Harry Kim shrugged and entered the holodeck. "Weird," he muttered.

"What's weird?" Paris was studying the configuration of the balls on the pool table with a concentration he normally reserved for evasive maneuvers.

"Commander Janeway. I just saw her hanging around outside the holodeck, but when I asked her if she'd booked it, she just kind of - ran away."

Tom threw down his cue and bolted for the door.

She heard him coming and tried to duck round a corner, but he was too quick. "Hey, Commander - wanna shoot some pool?" He skidded to a halt before her, grinning. Janeway groaned inwardly. This was not her day.

"No, Lieutenant, I'm busy."

"Then why were you waiting outside the holodeck?"

Damn you, Harry Kim. "I thought I might try a new, uh, rock-climbing program."

"Really? I went through the database yesterday and didn't see any new climbing programs." He folded his arms. His eyes were very blue. She felt a headache creeping at the base of her neck.

"Martial arts, then." Why was she stammering?

He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Only martial arts program I know of is B'Elanna's Klingon torture chamber. That what you're after?"

"I -"

~Chakotay to Janeway.~

She slapped her commbadge in relief. "Janeway here."

~Could you come to my ready room, please.~

"On my way." She left without a backward glance.

Tom Paris was getting used to the sight of her walking away from him.

 

=/\=


"Come in," he called from the sofa as the door chimed.

Janeway stood at attention just inside the doorway.

"Have a seat, Kathryn." He gestured. She perched warily on the edge of the sofa, as far from him as she could get.

"I need you to prepare a list of the supplies we need and anything we can use to trade with the Ruatans. B'Elanna tells me dilithium's not the only thing Engineering's crying out for, and I think even Neelix is getting sick of leola root. Ask Kes to help you with the list of medical requirements."

"Won't the Doctor have a better idea?"

"He's experiencing some fluctuations in his imaging processor. I've taken him offline so Harry and B'Elanna can repair it."

"Right." She stood.

"Sit down, Kathryn."

She sat.

"The Ruatans have generously offered our crew free run of their planet for shore leave. I'd like you to draw up a roster. Even when we get the dilithium, it's going to take a few days to adapt it to Voyager's systems. I'm planning on remaining in orbit for about a week."

"Yes, sir." She stood.

"Sit down, Kathryn."

She sat.

"I want you to make sure everybody gets at least a couple of days off." He put down the PADD he'd been holding and looked at her seriously. "Especially my First Officer."

Her face shut down. "Is there a problem, Captain?"

Chakotay sighed. "Frankly, yes." He stood and headed for the replicator. "I've got some credits saved. Coffee?"

"Thanks."

"Two coffees, black, extra strong." The drinks shimmered into life (white china cups, she noted wryly, not the standard squat black polymer; well, they took their indulgences where they could find them in the Delta quadrant) and he brought them over, sitting next to her on the sofa. "Here."

She took it, careful not to touch his fingers. "What's the problem, sir?"

How could such a big man look so right holding the fragile cup? She watched as he sipped. Grace and power. She'd never seen the combination look so ... right.

"You're not happy, Kate."

She jerked, and hot coffee slopped into the saucer. "What?"

"Are you all right?"

"Fine. I didn't splash myself."

"I'm not talking about the coffee."

She placed her cup deliberately on the table by her side. "Then what are you talking about ... sir?"

Chakotay put his cup down as well. "I'm talking about a First Officer who barely speaks on duty. Who makes no friends among the crew. Who rarely visits the holodeck, rarely eats in the mess hall ... who in fact, as far as I know, rarely eats at all. A First Officer who might as well be a ghost, for all she talks to anybody. Kate, I never see you smile." He gave her a gentle look. "I remember when you used to smile a lot."

She spoke through stiff lips. "That was a long time ago, sir."

He rubbed a hand through his hair. "And that's another thing. Sir? We're not on the bridge now. What happened to calling me Chakotay? What happened to our friendship? What happened to your stubbornness, your willingness to stand up to me, to fight for what you thought was right? What happened to us, Kate?"

For a moment she was silent. And then she was shaking, more angry than she could ever remember being.

"What happened to us?" she hissed. "There is no us, Captain. There is no fighting for what's right. There is no friendship anymore. You killed all that the day you made me your First Officer."

She watched the colour leaching from his skin.

"There's no point in standing up to you," she went on, trembling. "When it comes down to it, you're the captain and I'm the XO. Your decisions will always, always overrule mine. You forced me to join this Starfleet crew. Forced me to subjugate my personal beliefs. Forced me to report to you and take your orders. And don't even try to suggest that I could have turned you down. You had the power, even out here, to keep me in your brig for the rest of my life, and my crew along with me. And a captain does not abandon her crew. I had no choice, Chakotay!"

He looked as though she'd struck him. She turned away, trying to hide her shaking hands.

"No choice," he repeated softly. Her head shot up.

"Familiar words." Chakotay's voice was quiet. "I seem to recall using those very words myself. The day I made you my First Officer."

Kathryn had nothing to say.

"Why didn't you tell me this before?"

"What would be the point," she said quietly.

"Oh, Kate." It was almost a groan. "The point is that I care about you. Maybe more than -" He stopped. "The point is, I've known you for eleven years. We've been friends for a long, long time. If I thought I'd thrown all that away ..."

"Friends," she repeated bitterly. "I thought so, too. Until we ended up here, and I found out you'd taken the assignment to find me. I suppose Starfleet Command knew all about our ... friendship. How lucky for them that they had a gung-ho captain who knew just how to find Janeway the Maquis traitor. How unlucky for you that you'll probably spend the rest of your life on this ship with the friend you betrayed."

Chakotay's throat hurt. "Kathryn. Why can't you see? I was doing what I thought was right. I was standing up for what I believe in. Just like you were, when you joined the Maquis."

She whirled to face him. "I would never betray a friend!"

"But you did, Kathryn." He was looking at her so tenderly. She couldn't bear it. "On stardate 46998.3. You used my access codes to steal the Liberty from Utopia Planetia."

Her eyes widened in shock.

"You thought I didn't know?" He laughed, but there was no joy in the sound. "I knew. I knew the moment the alarm went out. That ship was a prototype, Kathryn, and I was responsible for it. Only I, two admirals and the security chief on duty knew the codes. Do you have any idea how much trouble that got me in?"

Her face was hot.

"I almost got court-martialed. It was only Admiral Paris' intervention that saved me. Starfleet Security were all for hauling me away on the spot, but Owen made them give me a chance to find the evidence. The evidence that you'd broken into my apartment that morning, that you'd hacked into the database. You were careful, but I knew."

"Oh God," she said involuntarily. "I thought - I was careful. I wore an EVA suit, for God's sake. Put it on outside your apartment. I thought that any trace of my being there could be explained because I'd been there the night before. I thought - I never thought -"

"I know," Chakotay said. "I know. But the virus you implanted in the computer to cover your tracks ..."

"The Al-Batani."

Years ago. She'd been Ensign Janeway then, a science officer. Her first deep space posting, and Chakotay's second. He was chief helmsman, a few years older, a few years wiser. Firm friends from the day he swung into Astrometrics and asked her to help him plot a course through the Bhironi system. I need your help, he'd cajoled. An away mission. And then he'd dimpled at her, and she lost herself in those dark brown eyes and knew she'd do anything he asked of her.

She went with him on that away mission, and it wasn't the last. It wasn't the last thing they did together by any means. They'd become the ship's practical jokers, good-humoredly tolerated by the mostly older crew, detested by Lieutenant O'Day, the Al-Batani's chief tactical officer, indulged by their captain, Owen Paris. They'd hacked into O'Day's tactical simulations and altered the phasers to spit out paint instead of energy pulses. They'd reconfigured the ship's food replicators to produce only mashed potatoes and gravy, no matter what was requested. And they'd developed their own signature: somewhere hidden in every prank, like a graffito's tag, could be found the pattern of the Bhironi solar system.

It wasn't the last thing they'd shared. But it was the first, and she'd always remembered it. So nine years ago, when Chakotay had won his promotion to lieutenant commander and left the Al-Batani for a posting on the Yamaguchi, she'd kept the memory close, and adopted that graffito's tag as her own. And the virus - the virus she'd installed in Chakotay's database when she stole the codes to the USS Liberty - it had scrambled the computer's command pathways into a repeating pattern. The astrometric pattern of the Bhironi star system.

Perhaps, somehow, she'd wanted to be caught. She'd wanted him to know.

She pushed her hands into her hair. "Chakotay, I don't know what to say."

"Well, there's a first time for everything."

She whipped around to face him. He was smiling. Against her will, the corners of her mouth curled up. "Smartass," she commented.

"I'm in good company." His dimples deepened. Kathryn's mouth twitched. And then she laughed. And winced, grabbing the base of her skull.

"What's wrong?"

"Headache," she said shortly.

"Shall I take you to Sickbay?"

"God, no." She rubbed fiercely at the knots along her shoulders. "I just need to work this tension out."

"Let me." He turned her away from him, moved her hands away from her neck. She shot him a look over her shoulder. "Don't worry," he chastised. "I remember how."

And he did. His hands were magic. She'd said that to him once, back on the Al-Batani, when he'd soothed the beginnings of a migraine. He'd told her off for not reporting to sickbay, and then admitted there were better ways of curing a headache than an analgesic spray. She'd teased him about it then. But the touch of his hands had left her feeling more alive than any hypospray.

The touch of his hands. She closed her eyes, feeling the months of tension draining from her muscles as he began the slow small circles, pressing deep into her flesh. "You're wound up tighter than a plasma coil," he murmured, and his breath sent tiny shivers along her nape. Prickles along her skin.

She sighed. "That feels so good."

Chakotay's fingers stilled. The last time he'd rubbed her neck ... He shut the memory down. Concentrated on working out the deep tension in her shoulders. The feel of her fragile bones beneath his hands. The scent of her hair.

He was suddenly, achingly hard.

She heard his soft groan. Felt the melting response, deep in her core. The softening of muscles throughout her whole body. His touch was no longer therapeutic. He was caressing her skin.

Don't stop.

He bent his head, pressed his mouth to her nape. Let the tip of his tongue trace the first knob of her spine. She was trembling. He could feel it. His hands slipped downward, tracing the outline of her shoulderblades. She arched her back and he heard her exhale.

"Kate."

She opened her eyes. His lips touched her ear.

"Kate, turn around. Look at me."

She turned. He cradled her head in his hands, thumbs tracing her cheekbones. His mouth inches from hers. He was so close ...

~Tuvok to Captain Chakotay.~

So close.

A nanobeat of silence, and then Kathryn wrenched away. Chakotay swallowed. She was on the other side of the room before he was able to speak.

"Chakotay here."

~The Ruatans are hailing us, sir.~

Oh Christ. "I'm on my way. Chakotay out. I'm sorry," turning to her. "You have no idea how sorry."

She cleared her throat. "Better let me go. I can handle the Ruatans. You -"

Was she smirking?

"- should do something about that first."

She met his eye, straight-faced. "After all, it wouldn't do for the senior representative of the Federation to address a Delta quadrant ambassador with a hard-on."

He was still speechless as the doors swished shut behind her.