Relieved

Summary: A chance to get home compromises the crew's ethics. In the wake of events, Captain Chakotay re-examines a few of his own ethical choices.

 

Characters: Chakotay, Janeway, Paris, Tuvok, Kim, Torres, VOY crew, O. Paris, Sisko, Nechayev, Sloan, Original Characters

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

 

Disclaimer: Paramount offered me a box of assorted chocolates. I picked out the ones I like and left the rest. As always, Paramount is welcome to keep the calories.

 

Notes: Book 2 of the Parallels series. Related episode: Prime Factors. Some crossover with ST:DS9 and ST:TNG characters and situations.

Rated T

Part Six

 

January, 2371
~ eight months ago ~


Admiral Paris had assigned Lieutenant Tuvok to Chakotay's investigative team only a few weeks after Chakotay had requested the assignment. "The man's a tactical officer, not a secret agent, but he's worked for Starfleet Intel in the past and I think he's the right man for the job," Paris had told him firmly. "We'll be sending him undercover when he's been through covert operations training. Katie never met him while she was here, he knows the Liberty, and besides, everybody trusts a Vulcan."

It was clear to Chakotay that refusal wasn't an option. He swallowed his ever-present suspicions and resolved to keep a close eye on Lieutenant Tuvok. It came as no surprise that Tuvok passed covert operations training with flying colours, nor that the Vulcan made a fine addition to the task force - Chakotay had studied Tuvok's records, which were littered with commendations despite his punctuated career. What did surprise him was his own response to the Vulcan's presence. At first he watched the lieutenant warily, waiting for the slightest sign that Tuvok didn't report solely to Chakotay. As the months passed with no evidence of subterfuge, Chakotay began to relax. By the time Tuvok was ready to infiltrate the Maquis, Chakotay had almost come to rely on the Vulcan's unfailingly serene and intellectual presence. Somewhere along the way, he'd begun to turn to Tuvok for advice. The day Tuvok embarked on his mission, Chakotay realised with a start that he considered the man to be something close to a friend.

Now, two months after Tuvok had reported his success in infiltrating Janeway's Maquis cell, Chakotay stood in Admiral Paris' office. Lieutenant Tuvok, it seemed, had gone missing.

"Tuvok hasn't reported for almost two weeks. His cover may have been compromised, so we're sending you after him to pull him out." Paris peered at him. "You'll be commanding one of the new Intrepid-class ships. She's not as small and maneuvrable as the Liberty, but she's been built to handle the plasma storms you're bound to encounter in the Badlands."

Paris handed him a PADD. "It's all in here, but the short version is, your mission is recovery first, reconnaissance second. This is Voyager's maiden journey, so don't try pushing her too hard. Although it'll be good to know if she stands up well in the Badlands. You're to head for the Terikof Belt first, and follow your noses from then on. Get your astrometrics officers working overtime - if we can map the Belt, we'll know a damn sight more about the Maquis than we do now."

Chakotay took the PADD, and his gaze fell on the holocube on the admiral's desk, a montage of family photographs. One whole side of the cube was taken up by a picture of Tom Paris, the admiral's son. Who had just recently been captured by Starfleet and brought to trial for crimes he committed as a member of the Maquis.

"You'll be leaving on Friday at 0900 hours," the admiral was saying. "Better get your bags packed."

"Admiral," Chakotay said suddenly.

"Mm?"

"Sir, it's occurred to me that I'd have a distinct advantage if I had a pilot who was familiar with the Badlands. Do you know anyone who might qualify?"

The admiral's mouth tightened. "No."

Chakotay met his eye. "What about your son?"

"What about him?" Paris' tone was clipped.

"I understand he was in the Maquis for a short while, and that he piloted the Liberty. I think he could provide us with valuable information, both about navigating the Badlands and about Kathryn's probable movements."

"He's in prison." There was a world of savage emotion buried beneath that gruff facade.

"I could request his temporary release to my custody for the duration of the mission."

"He'd want to know what's in it for him."

"I'd offer to put in a good word for him at his next outmate review."

Paris considered it with stony face, and Chakotay began to think he'd turn him down. Then the admiral nodded once. "Do what you have to, Chakotay. Good luck."

It was obviously a dismissal, and for a moment Chakotay wanted to shout at him. That's your son you're pretending you don't give a damn about, Admiral. Be sure you make peace with him before it's too late. Because I'm here to bear witness to the awfulness of losing a father with harsh words still between you.

That night, for the first time in months, he received a visit from Sloan. The neat man's request came as no surprise to Chakotay. His orders from Starfleet might be to seek and retrieve Lieutenant Tuvok, but Section 31 had an additional request: bring back Janeway, and if possible, the Liberty.

It was time to decide.

He knew capturing Kathryn would bring her a death sentence, and he already had too much blood on his hands. He wouldn't be the one responsible for causing another death. Especially not hers. Yet his trust in her was so shaken that he couldn't quite believe she would feel the same way about him. What if his attempt to retrieve Tuvok caused a conflict between Voyager and the Liberty? Would Kathryn give the order to fire? Would he?

And then there was always the possibility that he wasn't the only one on board who was working for Section 31. He knew Sloan didn't trust him. Wasn't it logical for 31 to have a backup plan - another agent, stationed on Voyager, to take action if Chakotay failed to act? Or maybe on the Liberty. Tuvok was already working for Starfleet Intelligence, and despite Chakotay's newborn trust in him, he had no proof of the lieutenant's innocence. He knew how good Section 31 was at covering its tracks, and he knew he couldn't rule out the possibility that Tuvok also worked for 31. Admiral Paris had said it himself: everybody trusts a Vulcan.

Paris. Chakotay hated that the man he respected and liked was also under suspicion. And what of the junior Paris, dressed in Starfleet uniform and sitting on his bridge? As Sloan left his apartment that night he'd added his approval to Chakotay's decision to recruit Tom Paris. Did that mean Sloan had got to the younger man? Had Tom made a deal with Section 31 to ensure his release from prison?

Chakotay still hadn't come to a decision when Voyager left DS9 for the Badlands. But in a twist of fate to trump all the other twists of fate he'd endured over the past eighteen months, Voyager was catapulted into the Delta quadrant, and for now, the decision was made for him.


August, 2371
~ today ~


The door chime buzzed for the third time. Unable to continue ignoring it, Kathryn Janeway slammed the palm of her hand on the entry pad.

Tom Paris stood before her, blue eyes masking his nerves and a small brown-paper parcel in his hand. "What do you want?" she snarled.

Her aggression rattled even his composure and he stepped backward, but rallied quickly. "Thought you might need cheering up," he said, favouring her with his trademark grin. He peered past her into her darkened quarters. "Wow, Commander, this place looks worse than my Academy dorm room."

"Lieutenant -"

"Whoa, don't raise your shields. I only came to bring you this. I thought it might help pass the time." He held the small package before him as though warding her off.

"What is it?" she asked suspiciously.

Tom was quickly regaining confidence. "Well, sir, I could tell you, but that'd spoil the surprise. It's traditional for the recipient to unwrap the gift." He paused slightly, then added, "It's also traditional for the giver to be invited in while the recipient thanks him and exclaims over his thoughtfulness. But we can skip the exclaiming part," he said hastily as her jaw tightened.

She squinted at him for a moment longer, then moved with bad grace away from the door, jerking her head to tell him to enter.

"Thanks." He gave her a full-wattage grin, but she'd already turned away and was on the sofa gingerly unwrapping the parcel as though it might contain something dangerous. He perched opposite her and watched as she held up a leather-bound copy of The Brothers Karamazov.

"I remembered you saying once that Dostoyevsky was one of your favourite authors," he explained as she looked up at him with something approaching a smile. He waited a beat. "I thought about giving you Crime and Punishment, but I figured you'd already had enough of those."

His delivery was way off. She was supposed to give him that look, the one that meant she was tickled despite herself, and didn't want him to know it. Instead he got The Look. Tom quailed.

"What are you doing here, Lieutenant?" she asked sharply.

"I wanted to see if you were okay," he said, rattled into truthfulness.

That stopped her short. "Why?"

Oh, great, Tom thought, then hard on its heels, oh, what the hell. "Because I like you."

Janeway bit her tongue before another 'why?' could slip out. "I see." She placed the book on the coffee table. "Thanks," she said, gesturing at it.

He was showing no signs of moving from his chair, and in fact his expressive face wore a look of expectancy. She sighed and mentally geared herself up for one of their minefield exchanges. "So, Lieutenant, have you been well?"

"I guess so," he said after a short pause. "Shore leave gave me a good break." She scowled again and he mentally kicked himself. "Repairs are going well," he tried.

"I'll have to take your word for it," she said tartly.

This was getting them nowhere. Paris leaned forward. "So, are you?"

"Am I what?"

"Okay."

To his surprise, she laughed, though without much humour. "I'm just fine, Lieutenant. I've been sent to my room like a misbehaving child when I should be organising shipwide repairs, but sure, I'm okay."

"Do you really think that?"

"What?"

"That you should be back on duty."

She looked at him sharply, but he projected only innocence and calm curiosity, so she decided to answer. "I did get us a long way closer to home," she said pointedly. "And in one piece, despite not having time to test the spatial trajector."

"And despite disobeying orders by acquiring it illegally," Tom said without expression. But it was enough to rile her. She stood angrily.

"Damn it, everything I've done these past few days has been for this crew! What right do any of you have to judge me for what I do, or how I do it? What difference does it make, so long as it all works out in the end?"

There was something in the way he looked at her then. Something she didn't like at all. It took her a moment to realise that it was disappointment. Tom Paris was disappointed in her?

He stood, facing her across the coffee table. "I know I don't have the right to judge you," he told her, sounding much more adult than she'd expected. "In any case, I don't think anyone on this ship would dare. But one person does have the right to call you on your actions. He's the captain, and you disobeyed his orders. I might have been kicked out of the fleet, but even I know it's the captain's right - more than that, his duty - to punish you for that." He shrugged. "As for the ends justifying the means, that argument might've worked in the Maquis. But things are different now." He'd started to turn away, but she saw him still, draw back his shoulders, and turn to face her again. "Permission to speak freely?"

More freely than that? She almost shouted at him again, but she was intensely curious despite herself at this new side of Tom Paris. She nodded shortly.

"You signed on for this," he told her. "You accepted the post of first officer on Voyager, and you agreed to follow Starfleet rules. You think you've got it tough? You have a Starfleet background; you know the ropes. If your former crew can play by the rules - if I can - then you've no excuse." He saw her eyes darkening and hastened to finish. "I guess you miss being in command. And I don't know what kind of history you have with the captain - that's obviously none of my business." For a second his voice tightened, then he rallied. "But he's the captain now. Not you. And he deserves your respect." Tom hesitated, then finished somewhat lamely, "Uh, that's all." He waited for the tirade of scorn and fury he was sure would follow.

But Janeway was silent, staring at him. He risked a glance at her. There were still storm clouds banked up behind her eyes, but he could tell she'd been listening to him. He cleared his throat, and the sound seemed to startle her back into life.

"Thank you for those enlightening comments, Lieutenant," she said, and though the words should have been harsh, the biting undercurrent was missing from her tone. "Dismissed."

Her pensive gaze followed him until the door had closed behind him. Tom Paris leaned against the bulkhead with a sense of relief. That conversation could have gone horribly wrong. In fact it almost had, and then for some reason she'd decided to really listen to him. He thought about what he'd said, about rules and command and respect, and couldn't help a brief snort of laughter. Who'd have thought Tom Paris would ever make a speech like that? After all, he'd been on the receiving end more times than he cared to count.

"What's so funny?"

Tom started. "Oh, nothing."

"You're grinning like a fool," Harry Kim pointed out, eyebrow raised. He took closer note of his surroundings. "Isn't that Commander Janeway's quarters? ... Tom, please tell me you haven't -"

"Haven't what?" Paris asked defensively.

"You know."

Paris folded his arms. "I think I do. And no, I haven't. We haven't. Anyway," he pushed off from the wall, "where's the most upstanding ensign in Starfleet heading this evening?"

"What? Oh," Kim blushed. "I was on my way to visit B'Elanna."

"Harry," Tom mocked, "please tell me you haven't."

Kim sent him an annoyed look and headed for the turbolift.

 

=/\=


He'd been aimlessly prowling the corridors for hours, trying to think, trying not to think. It was with a sense of inevitability that he found himself standing before Kathryn Janeway's quarters. He had pressed the doorpad before he was consciously aware of doing it.

The doors slid open, and there she was. Skin flushed from a hot-water shower, wet ropes of hair tangling over one shoulder, hard nipples pushing impatiently against her damp cotton slip. And a mutinous scowl on that beautiful face. Chakotay swallowed hard.

She blocked the doorway, hand on one hip. "Come to bust me down to ensign?"

"Can I come in?" He was trying to look everywhere but below her neckline. She moved back; it wasn't an invitation, but it wasn't a refusal either. He stepped through and the doors closed behind him.

She stalked over to the sofa and sat, waiting. He looked around. Her room was a mess: clothing was strewn over almost every surface, dirty plates and coffee cups littered tables and benchtops. "I see some things never change," he joked feebly.

"Oh, I see. You've already grounded me, now you've come to tell me to clean up my room? Are you my captain or my mother?"

"Kathryn ..." Chakotay pinched the bridge of his nose and then met her gaze. "I'm too tired and too angry to be having one of our ... discussions tonight."

"Then why are you here?"

"Because this incident can't interfere with our working relationship. We need to get past it. For the crew's sake."

"I did it for the crew's sake," she snapped without thinking.

"That's the problem," he said heatedly, forgetting his reluctance to argue. "You did it. You disobeyed orders. You went behind my back. You nearly got us all killed."

"But I didn't get us all killed." She stood swiftly. "I cut a good dozen years off our journey. To me, that's worth a few days in the doghouse."

"That's not the point," he retorted, moving towards her. "You know as well as I do that without a clear command structure on this ship, there will be chaos. And like it or not, all final command decisions are mine to make. Not yours."

"You've made that very clear," she muttered.

"Have I?" His voice rose and he stepped closer until she had to tilt her head back to meet his eyes. "I'm not so sure I have. B'Elanna Torres knows what she did was wrong. She accepted her punishment. Do you?"

He could see a vein pulsing in her throat. She spoke through gritted teeth. "B'Elanna Torres sees her captain giving her a dressing-down and taking her away from her engines. She'd do anything not to let that happen again."

"B'Elanna Torres is genuinely sorry, engines be damned, and you know that as well as I do, Kate!"

"Fine!" she shouted, knowing he was right, and ashamed of her spiteful remark. "But I saw a chance to get closer to home, I took it, and damn it, it paid off!"

There was a red blur obscuring Chakotay's vision. "Because you got lucky," he bellowed, and their furious faces were mere inches apart now. "But there are going to be other occasions when you disagree with my decisions, and the next time you decide to take matters into your own hands, you - and the rest of us - might not be so lucky." He grabbed her arms just above the elbow, holding her motionless, shouting into her face. "I will not let you do this again, Kate. You're not a fucking renegade anymore. You have a responsibility to keep this crew safe, and you have a responsibility to follow my goddamn orders!"

In the quiet that followed, the only sound was their breathing, the only movement her trembling. She was staring at him, eyes wide with shock. He realised he was gripping her arms and forced himself to release them.


Chakotay stepped back swiftly. "Shit. Did I hurt you?"


Kathryn said nothing. The anger had drained from her eyes.


He moved forward again, hands held out appeasingly. "I'm sorry, I -"

"It's all right," she said softly. “You didn’t hurt me.” She stepped closer and placed a hand on his arm.

"Chakotay."

He looked at her.

"You're right," she said slowly. "I've been so wrapped up in my own anger that I thought I was the only one with a right to be angry. I thought that my way was the right way - the only way. I was a Maquis captain for a year, and I got used to a certain way of doing things. Desperation can make you do things you'd never consider otherwise." She smiled a little. "And I guess I've been ... jealous ... that I'm no longer the captain. It hasn't been easy, putting on the uniform again, learning to take orders again. But I'd never really considered that it hasn't been easy for you either." Her thumb was stroking lightly against his wrist now. He watched, mesmerised, as she continued speaking.

"I'd forgotten what a principled man you are," she said softly. "I've known you for so long, and I still underestimate you. I don't know if I could do what you do. I don't know if I could command a starship alone in the Delta quadrant and still be true to my principles. I don't know if I could avoid making compromises." She had moved ever so slightly closer to him. He felt her warmth. He was fully clothed, she was barely touching him, and he still felt her warmth.

"I admire you," she told him. "I don't know if your way is the best way, but you set standards for yourself and you stick to them. You don't compromise your ethics. I respect that." She bowed her head. He was sure she could hear the hammering of his heart.

"I can't promise I'll always agree with you. But I promise I won't go behind your back again. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry."

For a moment, Chakotay felt her still-damp hair brush his jaw. Then she stepped back.

"Friends?" she asked, delicate hand outstretched.

He wanted to throw her against the bulkhead and fuck her half unconscious.

"Friends," he said hoarsely, and took her hand.

Somehow he found himself walking mindlessly through the corridors of Deck Three. He had no memory of leaving Janeway's quarters; his mind was too full of images. It took half an hour's pacing before he remembered her words.

You don't compromise your ethics. I respect that.

Chakotay knew he was worthless.

 

=/\=


Before Voyager had left DS9 eight months ago, Benjamin Sisko had come good on his bet. "Chakotay, you may not have the Liberty anymore, but we sure know she's spaceworthy." Thrusting a bottle of 2251 Saurian brandy into Chakotay's arms, he added, "Voyager's a fine ship. Do me a favour, and have a glass of this in her honour."

Now seemed as good a time as any. She might be in shambles, but his ship had held together through the unexpected thirteen thousand light year jump. Chakotay dug the brandy out of a closet and wrestled it open. Settling into an armchair, he kicked off his boots, propped his feet up on the coffee table, raised his glass, and took an appreciative gulp. He let himself savour the dark smoky brandy for a few moments, and then allowed his mind to resume ticking over.

In a way, he was almost relieved. A major clash between Starfleet protocols and Maquis determination had been inevitable. Now at least the air had been cleared, and perhaps in the days to come, as they repaired the ship, they could breathe easy and put aside their differences. He hoped above all that Voyager's captain and first officer could lead them by example. He sighed. They had a long way to go to rebuild the trust they'd once had in each other.

Kathryn had betrayed him not once now, but twice. The first time she'd done it to follow her conscience; the second time, to save his. She couldn't have known his conscience was already so heavy that the weight of one more regret might have crushed him. He deplored what she'd done, but there was some secret corner of him that was grateful.

And they had cut a good few years off their journey. That was definitely something to be grateful for. Because it was going to be a very long journey, particularly for a captain who suspected that someone on his crew might be working for Section 31.

What was going on, back home in the Federation? It was a question that kept Chakotay lying sleepless in the dead hours of the night. He wondered if Sloan's tales of the Dominion were true, if there had been an invasion of the Alpha quadrant, if Cardassia had honoured the peace treaty. And he wondered what secret doings Section 31 was orchestrating without official consent, all in the name of the Federation.

He wondered if there were any others like him, who'd been gradually pulled into a web of secrets and lies, who'd found themselves elbow-deep in corruption, somehow doing the work of the wrong side. He'd had a lucky reprieve; he'd never been forced to complete his mission to bring Janeway back with the Liberty. What would he have done if he hadn't been so lucky? How far would he have gone? How much would he have found himself compromising his ethics to get that last vital piece of information that he could use to bring down Section 31 in the name of the Federation? Would he, in the process, have become just like Sloan?

Haven't you ever made an ethically questionable decision for the good of your crew, or the good of the Federation, and had to live with the consequences? Wasn’t it worth it?

He would probably spend the rest of his life on the wrong side of the galaxy, with a crew of displaced Starfleet officers, Maquis terrorists, Delta quadrant aliens, and quite possibly a spy. A captain who would never be able to place complete trust in his crew, and perhaps in himself.

Those were consequences.

Chakotay poured another finger of brandy and held the glass up to the light. He thought about the ship he'd lost, and the ship which now carried him; the crewmen who'd died in their tumultuous trip to the Delta quadrant, and the rag-tag group of people who'd joined them since then. He thought about his family, his kinsmen, and Dari Ajuta, victims of corruption and paranoia. And then he thought about Kathryn Janeway, who was alive.

There would always be things to be grateful for. Leaning back in his chair, Chakotay closed his eyes and smiled.

© 2021 by Mia Cooper