your body like a searchlight
Summary: It’s a long and lonely journey for a woman who longs for things she won’t allow herself to have.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
Codes: Janeway/Johnson, Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Kashyk, Janeway/Seven, Janeway/Sullivan, Janeway/Jaffen
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Star Trek universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Written for the #merrymonthofcohen tumblr fic event, to the song prompt Take This Longing.
So let me judge your love affair in this very room where I have sentenced mine to death
"Personal log, Kathryn Janeway, stardate 51813.5.
“I’m told this log will be erased without leaving the slightest shadow of a trace, as will my memory of the past few days’ events. And, although I hate the idea that something I’ve experienced, something as profound and impactful as Kellin’s visit to this ship, will disappear forever, it’s probably for the best …”
She breaks off to tap her standing order into her replicator, then wraps her hands around the mug and stares into it, unseeing. Just as she had earlier tonight, tucked silently into a corner of the mess hall.
She had heard Chakotay questioning why Kellin hadn’t fallen for him a third time after she’d lost her memories, and Neelix’s reply that love was random, that it could burn hot, or misfire, or not ignite at all, depending on a chance collection of elements.
And Kathryn can’t help but wonder: how does that affect them? How does that apply to her and Chakotay?
“What if our timing had been better,” she muses now, “if I’d been ready on New Earth, or he’d been ready after we received those letters from home? Would love have burned steady for us, or would it, in the end, have failed to spark?
“Would he still have lost interest in me if I’d stopped resisting him?”
She curls up beside the viewport, resting her head against the cool transparent aluminium.
Even if he had lost interest – even if they’d burned so hot the flame was extinguished quickly – it might have been worth it. At least she would know, now, what it was like to be with him, to kiss him and feel him inside her. At least she’d have the memory of him to keep her warm at night.
“It’s been more than three years since I last felt someone’s arms around me,” she says softly. “So long I can’t quite recall the exact shade of Mark’s eyes or the texture of his hair. And even when I try to remember, I can’t be sure it’s a memory and not simply my imagination.”
If she’s honest … remembering hurts too much. Not because she misses Mark, specifically – she stopped missing him a while ago, though she can’t pinpoint exactly when – but because it’s been so long since someone held her close.
She misses feeling safe and loved.
Kathryn sips the bitter coffee and rests the cup on her drawn-up knees.
“I miss sex,” she confesses aloud. “I miss it so much that I won’t, wouldn’t, allow myself it. On New Earth, I resisted Chakotay because I was terrified of losing myself in him. How could I ever command him again if I took him into my body and my bed? How could I separate my feelings from my duty?”
The truth is that she can’t. Not when it comes to him.
If their encounter with the Borg and their subsequent quarrel taught her anything, it’s that she’s incapable of keeping the line unblurred between loving him and commanding him.
As is he. It’s no coincidence that after the Borg, he gradually ceased to look at her with barely concealed desire. He stopped standing so close, resting his palm in the small of her back; stopped smiling at her as though she were a constant source of wonder and delight.
For a while she touched him more frequently, flirted more outrageously, watched him more lingeringly, as if that could bring them back to the way they were.
But Kathryn has to admit to herself that it hasn’t worked.
“He’s farther away from me now than he’s ever been, and with Seven of Nine consuming my emotional energy and Chakotay preoccupied with fallout from the Maquis massacre, I don’t know how to bridge the chasm between us. I’m tired and I’m afraid, and worse, I’m not even sure I want us to be that close again. I’m not sure it’s the best thing for the ship …”
She breaks off. While that may be true – that she’s afraid that kind of closeness with Chakotay would scatter her focus – it’s not the only reason she’s holding back.
It could rip open old wounds that are best left scarred over. There’s no denying that they’ve hurt one another, and that they’ve chosen to solve their differences by ignoring them. Or she has solved them by pulling rank.
He would expect that to change, if they became involved. He would want honesty and companionship; he’d want her to be vulnerable.
He would want all of her, and she’s not sure that she has anything left to give, and if she can’t give, she can’t allow herself to take.
But sometimes the hunger is unbearable. She’s never been someone who can exist without the closeness of touch. She pines for it, and the lack of it becomes a distraction.
This is not an unusual problem for Starfleet officers, particularly humans and other species that wither in the absence of physical contact; particularly commanders on long-term, deep space missions. It’s the reason Starfleet turns a blind eye to the sexual aspect of recreational holodeck use. It’s the reason successful Starfleet marriages often involve acceptance of affairs, or wilful ignorance of them, by the partner left behind.
Kathryn is no saint. She has needs, and she’s been known to seek out the remedy in less than appropriate places.
And maybe if Chakotay could fulfil those needs for her – if he could touch her, kiss her, take her to bed without wanting more, and if she could do the same with him – it could work. But she doesn’t believe they could do that. She believes he would consume her, subsume her; she thinks she would skew his judgement. She suspects they would come to exist only for each other and damn the ship and crew, and that’s a risk she can’t take.
“Maybe it’s for the best that he seeks comfort elsewhere,” she says slowly. “Maybe the next Kellin or the next Riley will be what he needs, and he’ll let me go. And maybe I’ll learn to accept that he’s not mine, and he never can be.”
Kathryn tips her head back against the bulkhead, eyes wide to hold in the useless, self-pitying tears.
She doesn’t want to feel this way – ripped open, spilled out and raw. She wants to tuck her messy, ungainly human desires neatly inside and button up her uniform.
And even if this record were to continue to exist past the next few hours, even if her memories of Kellin continued to exist, there’s no point in dwelling on the things she can’t have.
She stands, spine taut and jaw firm, and straightens the hem of her jacket until she looks as crisp as she did when she strode onto her bridge this morning.
“Computer,” she orders, “erase log.”