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.
"Over here, Lieutenant." Kes emerged from the Doctor's office. "How are the repairs going?"
"They're not." Torres was in a foul mood. "I've reconfigured his imaging processor twice to no effect, and I'm still having problems with his vocal subroutines. Looks like you're stuck playing doctor for a little while longer."
"Oh, I don't mind." The little Ocampan's smile was as sunny as ever. "I'm learning so much. The Doctor gave me some fascinating texts on comparative alien physiology and neurology, and I've recently started studying inter-species mating processes. Did you know that the Algolian fertility cycle parallels the cycles of their moon, and that the circular depressions on their cranial surface are an erogenous zone? Or that the Dolbargi can self-induce a meditative state which enables them to maintain orgasm for up to twelve hours at a stretch? And in Klingon mating rituals ..." She tailed off as the engineer held up her hand to halt the flow of information.
"Thank you, Kes." B'Elanna moved to the console in the centre of the room and started keying in commands. "Well, it's a good thing you're learning fast, because frankly I don't know how long it'll be till I can get the Doctor properly activated again. Better pray we don't have any medical emergencies."
Kes watched curiously over Torres' shoulder. "What are you doing?"
"I'm realigning the holographic imaging emitters throughout Sickbay. I've already scanned them for a problem and come up negative, but then the Doctor's program seems to be virus-free as well. I just can't -" Frustrated, she thumped the panel.
"Please state the nature of the - hello?"
Kes jumped. B'Elanna whirled. "Where are you, Doctor?"
"I don't know!" Could a hologram panic?
Kes peered into the Doctor's office. "He's here, Lieutenant ... but I think there's something wrong."
"Of course there is." Torres tamped down her frustration. "Let's take a look at you, Doctor - oh." She pulled a tricorder from her belt.
"What's happened to me?" The Doctor sounded terrified. "I can't see!"
"Your visual subroutines must be malfunctioning," B'Elanna said tactfully.
"What does that mean!"
"It means you have no eyes," she snapped.
He squawked. "How am I supposed to practice medicine if I'm unable to see my patients? You must fix me, Lieutenant!"
Kes laid a soothing hand on his holographic arm. "Don't worry, Doctor. Lieutenant Torres is doing everything she can."
"Kes ..." He gripped her hand like a drowning man. "Thank heavens you're here. How long have I been offline? Have you been able to manage without me? Is there any estimate on how long I might remain sightless? This is an unacceptable situation, Miss Torres!"
"Looks like the Doctor's vocal subroutines are working just fine now, Lieutenant." Kes tried to keep the laughter from her voice.
"I think I liked him better before," muttered B'Elanna.
"Captain, I've been working on the Doctor's program for eighteen hours straight. I've had Carey and Nicoletti running diagnostics on everything from the sickbay emitters to the holodecks. I've got Tuvok scanning subspace for photonic interference. I've tried everything I can think of. As soon as I correct one malfunction, another appears, and I can't work out why!" Torres' fatigue got the better of her and she slumped in her chair.
"Relax, B'Elanna." Chakotay's chocolate voice unwound a little of the creeping tension in her shoulders. "I know getting the Doctor back online is high priority, but I think for now the higher priority is for you to get some rest. After all, we don't want you ending up in sickbay, do we?" He grinned.
Torres smiled back reluctantly.
Chakotay stood. "Go to bed, Lieutenant. Get some sleep. Carey can take over for now, and I'll assign Harry to give you a hand tomorrow." He guided her to the ready room door. "I don't want to see you back on duty until 1100 hours, is that understood?"
"Understood, sir. And - thanks."
He stood in the doorway for a moment, watching her leave. Torres, Hogan, Ayala, Jonas, Tabor - all the former Maquis - they were pulling it together; working hard, making friends, upholding Starfleet rules and regulations. All of them, except their former captain.
Maybe he should have asked Torres to stay. Kim had told him the story of B'Elanna's initiation into the Maquis. A Gallamite trader in a seedy bar on Bajor had taken a liking to B'Elanna and hadn't taken kindly to her method of refusal. When his crewmates attempted to force the issue, Janeway and Ayala had come to her rescue. Finding that their new friend was not only an engineering genius but alone, adrift and looking for a fight, they'd wasted no time inviting her to join the Liberty crew. He knew Torres was fiercely protective of the brave, stubborn woman who'd saved her. He wondered if Janeway had unbent enough to take the engineer into her confidence, or if she kept her at arm's length as she did everyone else. If Torres could help him get through to his First Officer -
Chakotay shook his head. Nothing was guaranteed to foster uncertainty amongst a crew faster than a captain caught spying on his XO. And in their particular circumstances the last thing they could afford was more uncertainty. No matter how little he liked it, the Janeway Problem rested solely on his shoulders.
Or did it?
There was one person he might ask. One who had no ties to either Starfleet or the Maquis. One whose tranquillity and intuition had worked their gentle magic throughout the crew. Was it so unreasonable to suppose they might have worked on Kathryn as well?
He touched his commbadge. "Chakotay to Kes."
"If you're not busy, could you come to my ready room? I'd like to discuss something with you."
~Right away, Captain. Kes out.~
She arrived barely three minutes later, a slight flush on her pale, pretty face. "I didn't mean for you to run all the way here," Chakotay grinned. "I hope I didn't take you away from anything important."
Kes caught her breath. "No, Captain, I was just processing some blood samples; they can wait. I've left Ensign Seska in charge of Sickbay. But your call sounded urgent."
"Not really," he repeated, surprised.
She looked at him calmly. "Perhaps not, Captain. But something is troubling you. How can I help?"
"Telepaths," he muttered good-naturedly. "You're right, of course. I am concerned about something. I don't know if you can help me. I don't even know if I have the right to ask you -" He stopped. "Why are you smiling?"
"Sorry, Captain." Kes folded her hands in her lap. "I'll help you in any way I can."
"Right, right." Chakotay was uncharacteristically flustered. Even Tuvok's enigmatic countenance rarely affected him this way; he felt like a nervous schoolboy explaining himself to a teacher. Except she was a tiny slip of a thing, barely eighteen months old, and he was a starship captain. Get ahold of yourself. He stopped pacing and sat next to her on the couch.
"Here it is, then. I'd like to hear your thoughts on how the crew is faring. Particularly, whether you feel that the former Maquis are settling in well."
She looked thoughtful. "I haven't heard any real complaints, Captain. In the beginning, I know some of the Maquis were finding it difficult to adjust to their different routines, but that doesn't seem to be the case any longer. The incidents with Lieutenant Paris ..." She paused. "I think he was having a hard time for a while, but Commander Janeway's ... intervention appears to have defused the situation."
Despite himself, Chakotay leaned forward at the mention of her name. Kes continued non-committally, "The Commander does have a ... unique way of doing things."
"That she does." Chakotay's tone was equally unemotional. He waited.
"You know -" Kes lowered her eyelashes "- Commander Janeway speaks very highly of you."
She couldn't have surprised him more if she'd informed him that a Romulan warbird had just decloaked off their starboard bow. Chakotay blinked at her. "She does?"
"Yes, sir." Kes' smile was impish. "She told me that she would rather serve with you than anybody else in Starfleet."
Chakotay couldn't help it. "I'm not sure that's a compliment, Kes. She doesn't have a very high opinion of Starfleet."
"She disagrees with the Federation-Cardassian peace treaty, sir, not with the principles on which Starfleet was founded. And I don't believe it was a compliment; more a statement of absolute fact."
"Really," Chakotay said faintly. "And ... when did she tell you all this?"
"When she was helping me in the airponics bay, sir. Commander Janeway has quite a talent for botany."
"I see." He had no idea what to say.
"She also told me that she trusts you more than anyone else alive."
He was stunned.
"Are you alright, Captain?" Kes was leaning forward, apparently concerned, but she couldn't help the twitch of her lips.
"Are you laughing at me?" he asked suspiciously.
Kes' smile grew. "I'm just not used to seeing you at a loss for words, Captain. Should I not have repeated what the Commander told me?"
He was still grasping for coherent thought. "No, Kes, it's not that. I was just ... surprised. But thank you." He smiled at her. "Thank you for telling me."
Tom Paris was decidedly ill at ease.
It wasn't that he felt uncomfortable around Professor Ren; although the scientist's attention was centred on Commander Janeway, he was perfectly cordial to the helmsman. It wasn't even Janeway herself, this time; she appeared to have decided that for one night only, the presence of Lieutenant Paris was to be tolerated with good humour. He was grateful for the ceasefire, even if he suspected it was for the Baneans' benefit.
No, the problem was Ren's wife. Lidell.
From the moment she'd uncurled herself from the sofa and slinked past him to fetch drinks for her guests, Lidell Ren had been practising seduction on him. And she wasn't hiding the fact. She was frosty to Janeway, indifferent to her husband; but to Tom Paris, she was downright inviting. And the problem was, this was one invitation he'd love to accept.
He was beginning to sweat.
Half an hour ago, she'd maneuvered him into the kitchen with some story of a platter in a too-high cupboard. As he handed her the dish, she leant forward and kissed him. He smelled jasmine, and felt cool hair brush against his hand. She breathed, "Thank you," into his mouth. Then she waited for him to kiss her again.
Another time, another place, he might have. He was no saint, and he'd always taken his opportunities where he could find them. But this was wrong.
He squirmed away from her, stammering some excuse, and fled back to the drawing room. Janeway and Ren were gone.
"Oh, they'll be down in the lab," Lidell Ren said casually, draping herself in the doorway. "Tolen always takes the science types down there. Thinks they'll be impressed." She gave a tinkling laugh. "Somehow I don't think you're the impressionable type."
Paris coughed. "Uh, Mrs Ren, maybe I should go to the lab ..."
"Sure." She feigned disinterest. "I'll show you the way."
Halfway down the hall she turned and placed a hand on his chest, snaked the other around his neck, and brought him close to her lips. "Or I could show you something better," she murmured, and he was lost.