Written for the 2008 VAMB Fall Ficlet exchange with the first sentence provided; it may not be a “happy” ending, but it’s as happy as I could make it under the circumstances! This story assumes that J/C started an affair on New Earth and continued it, for awhile, upon their return to Voyager.
Summary: “You can’t always get what you want.” J and C friendship.
All the Way
During Season 4 (soon after “The Killing Game”)
“Do you know how far this is supposed to go?”
“The recalibrations?” Todd Mulcahey gave Karel Jor a sympathetic smile. “All the way, of course.”
Voyager hung motionless inside a nebula as engineer teams upgraded the antimatter injectors and made dozens of other essential repairs. These two were huddled inside a freezing Jeffries tube on Deck Eleven, working in the light of a battery-powered lantern. Together, they pulled another antimatter injector from its housing and began to disassemble it.
“We’re actually upgrading every single injector?”
“Yeah. It’s a miracle we’ve made it this long without replacing the nozzles, and when Torres found some that met our specs at the last trading post, I was sure we’d be working our tails off to get them installed as soon as possible.”
They finished replacing the nozzle, ran a quick diagnostic, and slid the injector back into place when Jor groaned. “Speaking of tails, Todd, my back is killing me.”
“Mine, too.” He sat up and twisted around to stretch his muscles. “We’re supposed to keep going until the end of our shift, but I guess we could sit up straight for a few minutes.”
“Good.” Jor stretched her back, took a long pull from the water pouch, and then handed it to Mulcahey. “All this work will improve engine efficiency by how much?”
“Just under two percent.”
“It’ll also keep the injectors from sticking so often,” he comforted her. “It’s not just speed. The run-in with the Hirogen put a strain on the whole ship, and we’ve got to make changes while we can.”
“And who decided that two percent was worth the work?”
“Torres. And the captain, of course.”
“All-the-way Janeway,” Jor groused, leaning back against the hatch that led to a Jeffries tube junction. “I think we were better off when Janeway and B’Elanna were at odds with each other. We didn’t have to work as hard.”
“I think you’re right.” He laughed, giving her a sideways look. “All-the-way Janeway?”
“All-the-way Starfleet, all-the-way to the Alpha Quadrant, all-the-way coffee.” Jor paused, winked, and lowered her voice. “All-the-way with Chakotay.”
Mulcahey blinked in surprise. “I’m not so sure about that last one, Karel.”
“I’m pretty sure they had an affair on that planet a couple of years back. Chakotay showed all the usual signs of involvement when we rescued them.”
“The planet where we left them for four months?” Mulcahey frowned. “Maybe then, but not lately. At least, not since Seven of Nine arrived.”
“The captain’s pet Borg.” Jor sighed. “We Maquis fought hard to buck Starfleet rules, but Seven is really putting up a struggle.”
“She’s basically a rebellious teenager. That’s why Janeway spends so much time with her.”
“And that’s why she doesn’t spend as much time with Chakotay.”
“Maybe she’s using Seven to get some distance from him.”
“If so, then she’s a fool. They’re perfect for each other, and out here, they should take whatever comfort they can find.”
Mulcahey shook his head. “Starfleet captains don’t get involved with their subordinates.”
“He was a captain, too,” Jor argued. “Some of the Maquis wondered, at first, which captain would end up in command of Voyager.”
“Then they underestimated Janeway. She was born to captain this ship. All-the-way Voyager, no matter how much it costs her personally.”
“Too bad. I feel sorry for both of them.”
They were quiet for a few minutes, taking one last turn drinking water, and then Mulcahey picked up his tool kit.
“We might as well move on down to the next injector.”
“If you say so, Ensign.”
In the junction outside the hatchway, Chakotay stood stock still. He’d been checking on the status of the repairs, climbing up the ladder that gave access to injector control, when he’d heard voices in the Jeffrey’s tube. He’d stopped to check on their progress when he realized that he and the captain were the subject of their conversation. He’d been too embarrassed to interrupt them and too curious to stop listening.
As the voices became muffled and indistinct, he remained immobile, regretting that he hadn’t just ignored them and moved on. He stared at the toes of his boots, his shoulders slumped, as he struggled to keep his heart from breaking.
“All-the-way Janeway,” he muttered, leaning his forearm against the top of the hatch and resting his head on his wrist. He was mortified that some of the crew had detected the truth about his affair with the captain on New Earth, because he’d been sure that they had been successful in hiding it. He didn’t want anyone’s pity for what had happened, and he knew the captain didn’t, either.
When they’d heard Tuvok’s voice announcing Voyager’s return, they’d both known that the odds were against their affair surviving once they’d returned to the ship. They’d tried to keep the relationship alive. She’d been skeptical, but he’d insisted that they try. And they’d failed. Miserably.
Looking back on it, he grudgingly acknowledged that it was impossible for either of them to keep the professional and private parts of their lives from overlapping, not on a ship that consumed every moment of their existence. They were always the captain and first officer, on duty and off, which meant that little disagreements that started on the bridge inevitably surfaced again in their quarters later on, and little irritations that began when they were alone popped up again while they were at work. They’d barely managed to keep the affair going when their disagreement over Janeway’s alliance with the Borg had put the finishing touches on whatever remained.
After Seven of Nine joined the crew, everything between them changed.
Eight months earlier
Chakotay arrived at Janeway’s door for their first weekly “working dinner” since Kes’s spectacular departure, only to find that she wasn’t there. He’d assumed that they would revert to their former habits once the dust settled and kicked himself for not reminding her of the meal earlier in the day. He had a feeling that she would use the female drone’s need for advice and reassurance as a reason to distance herself from him, and he was determined to prevent that from happening.
He tapped his commbadge. “Chakotay to Janeway.”
“Janeway here,” she replied, the hollow echo in her voice telling him that she was, in fact, with Seven of Nine in Cargo Bay 2. “What do you need?”
“Do I have the wrong night?”
“Wrong night?” There was a long pause. “For what?”
“For our weekly dinner.”
“Oh, for dinner!” She sighed and lowered her voice. “I’ve been so preoccupied that I forgot all about it, Chakotay. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t mind peanut butter and jelly if you don’t. It’s one of your best meals.”
She didn’t laugh, and his fears increased. “The truth is that tonight isn’t good. Seven and I are working through some issues, and I think we’re about to reach an understanding.”
“A nightcap then. When you’re through.” He could tell that she wanted to refuse, and so he preempted her. “We need to talk.”
“All right. I’ll stop by your quarters when I finish here.”
“Stop by no matter how late you stay. I’ll wait up.”
He was too nervous to eat, so he used the free time to straighten up his quarters and catch up on some reports that had been put aside during their fight with Species 8472 inside fluidic space. When he finished the last report, he realized that she was going to be very late, indeed. He replicated two egg salad sandwiches and a pitcher of lemonade, just in case she’d skipped dinner again, and tried to spend a few minutes meditating before she arrived.
It was just after midnight when an exhausted and irritable Kathryn Janeway appeared at his door.
“Can this wait until sometime tomorrow?” she asked as she stepped into the room. “I’m frazzled from arguing with Seven of Nine.”
“You need to eat something,” he insisted, leading her toward the dining table. “Have a sandwich. Relax and talk to me. I won’t keep you long.”
Her eyes widened in appreciation. “Maybe I can stay long enough to eat a sandwich.”
Later, he realized that he should have kept the conversation light. Midnight was no time to confront her about a delicate emotional issue, but he had been too impatient and worried to delay the discussion any longer. She was rattled over Kes’s departure and challenged by Seven’s defiance, and yet, when she’d just finished half of her sandwich and was reaching for the rest, he blurted out, “I’ll be glad when the two of us get back to normal.”
Janeway paused and then snatched her hand back. Her eyes were cold as she glared at him. “Normal?”
“You know,” he swallowed hard, his palms clammy at the dangerous tone in her voice. “Back the way we were before the Borg. Weekly dinners. Daily private meetings. The occasional night—”
“No.” She stood up and went to the replicator, standing in front of it as if she were unsure of what she wanted. Then she shrugged and said again, “No.”
“If you want to order coffee, Kathryn, it’s okay if you use my rations.”
“We can’t always have what we want.” She turned to face him, her arms crossed and her chin held high. “But we both know that.”
“I know it’s late, but you can have decaf.”
She made a face and then shook her head. “I’m not talking about coffee, and you know it.”
He sighed, regretting that he’d brought this up. “We’ve managed.”
“Is this about my breaking the alliance with the Borg? Because, I thought we’d settled that.”
“We have. I know you did what you thought was right. You were in command, after all.”
He took a deep breath in relief. “Then is it about the drone?”
“It’s about me.” She sat down at the table again, slumping slightly as she drew patterns on the tabletop with the condensation from her glass. “It’s my fault, and I’m truly sorry.”
“It’s too late at night for a serious discussion,” he answered, his stomach flipping over with dread. “We’ll talk this out after a good night’s sleep.”
“I’ve been putting this off for weeks, Chakotay. Now that we’ve started, let’s just finish it.”
“Finish what?” He wondered if she could hear his heart pounding in his chest as he made a last, desperate attempt to change the subject. “The sandwich?”
” This ‘thing’ between us.” She was almost trembling, her nerves stretched thin. She was deadly serious, and any further attempt at levity would be unwelcome. “I had my doubts from the first, if you remember. I told you that I don’t know how to do anything half way and that the ship would have to come first.”
“I remember. It hasn’t always been easy, but there have been some good times.”
“Yes, there have been, especially on New Earth, but every day since we returned to the ship has been more difficult than the day before.” She stared at him, waiting for a reply. “I won’t get angry if you agree.”
He took a moment as he recalled their many arguments, realizing that they did outnumber the good times and that they had been occurring with increasing frequency. “I admit that it’s been more … complicated than I expected it to be, but I’m willing to keep trying.”
“I’m not.” She took a shaky breath. “I have no choice but to be captain—all the way, every day—but I have a choice about the other stresses in my life, and when those choices threaten my equilibrium and cloud my clarity, I have to make changes.”
“Is that all I am to you?” he demanded, his temper flaring. “A source of stress?”
“Of course not. As my first officer, you’re a blessing every day—I need you to challenge me and keep me focused on the important issues. The problem is us—we’re not good at combining our personal and professional lives.” She crossed her arms on the table and leaned toward him. “It’s become a serious obstacle for me, Chakotay.”
“I make few demands on your time, and I never complain when you put work first.”
“No, damn it, you don’t, and that’s what makes this so hard to do.” She stood up and began to pace, gesturing with one hand while she rubbed her forehead with the other. “I thought I could have my cake and eat it, too, but I feel constantly off-balance and conflicted. I have to focus all I have on being the captain of this ship, and our relationship has been a distraction that undermines my effectiveness.”
“We would be better off we stopped trying to conceal our relationship from the crew.”
She stopped and faced him, her hands on her hips. “We would be better off we just stopped trying—while we can still salvage our friendship.”
“I’m asking you not to do this, Kathryn.”
“I’m asking you to let me do it.” He could hear the sorrow in her voice as she whispered, “Please.”
“If we break up, there can be no strings attached,” he warned her, barely hanging onto his composure. “No promises to wait for the other. No demands or expectations about the future.”
“That’s only fair.” She nodded, tears glittering in her eyes. “I understand that it has to be that way.”
He wilted, his anger giving way to despair. “You’re willing to risk it all? Everything we have? Or could have?”
“We can’t always have what we want,” she repeated, looking away. “But, I would hope that you’d still be my friend. I … I need that.”
He held his head in his hands, struggling to regain control of his emotions. As much as he resented her ultimatum, as much as her withdrawal angered him, he knew her primary motivation was her duty to the ship. He’d promised to do whatever she needed to lighten her burden of responsibility, never dreaming that his promise would require him to let her go. If this was what she needed him to do, however, then he would do it and forgive her for demanding it of him.
“Nothing can ever damage our friendship, Kathryn,” he answered, relaxing in his chair as he accepted her decision. He looked up and gave her a sincere smile. “I meant it when I said that I’d do whatever you need me to do to lighten your burden.”
“Thank you.” She studied her hands for a long time, trying to hide her anguish from him, but he saw two tears fall, and he watched as she angrily brushed others from her lashes. He wanted to give her comfort, but her bearing made it clear that physical contact would be unwelcome, and so he suffered with her from a distance. When she finally looked up, she managed a weak smile. “Thanks for the snack, too. That was very thoughtful of you.”
“You’re welcome.” He picked up the second half of her sandwich and bit into it.
She watched in silence as he finished the sandwich and drained the lemonade from his glass. With each passing moment, he could feel her pulling away from him, erecting the walls of protocol, the barriers of politeness, and the formalities of rank between them. He felt as if she had already left the room, and helpless to stop her, he stacked the dirty dishes and carried them to the recycler.
While his back was turned, the door to his quarters opened and closed. The captain left without even saying goodbye.
Taking a deep breath, Chakotay pushed those bitter memories aside and resumed his work, keeping busy for the next six hours before he decided he’d done enough. Depressed and tired, he headed for his quarters, wondering how long it would take him to force his regrets into the shadows of his mind and fall asleep.
Then, as luck would have it, the turbolift doors opened to reveal a single occupant—Kathryn Janeway.
“Captain.” He stepped onto the ‘lift. “Deck Three.”
“Commander. Calling it a night?”
“Just completed one last tour of the repairs,” he said with a nod. “You?”
“I just finished replacing my millionth injector nozzle.”
“You must have been working with B’Elanna, then.” His laugh was genuine. “Any idea how much longer those injectors will take?”
“Twelve hours, max, I’d say. We should be on our way by this time tomorrow.”
“That’s good news.” The doors opened on deck three, and they started down the passageway together. “I heard a new nickname for you today, Captain, and I think it’s perfect.”
“Uh-oh.” She rolled her eyes. “Can it be mentioned in polite company?”
“I don’t get it.”
“You never do anything halfway.” She stopped in her tracks, and he turned to smile at her, to soften the sting that the use of that term would inflict. “With you, it’s all or nothing.”
For the first time in months, he saw regret and sorrow in her eyes, and he knew that she remembered that night when she’d used the same words while ending their affair. She was still bothered by the memory, still regretted their breakup, and, for some reason, that fact made him feel better.
“I think they have me nailed,” she said at last, studying her hands. “But doing my job ‘all the way’ depends on your friendship, Chakotay. I can’t do it without you.”
“I’m right here.”
She gave him an affectionate look. “You’re still with me?”
“All the way, Janeway,” he replied with a straight face.
For a moment, she was too astonished by his reuse of her nickname to react, but then she laughed and threaded her arm through his.
“You make me laugh, and I need that.” She squeezed his arm, as if she wasn’t sure about her next words, but then she smiled and said quietly, “I need you, Chakotay.”
“I hope you never stop needing me, Kathryn.”
They stood in silence for a long moment, basking in comfort and warmth of their friendship, and then they turned and walked slowly, arm-in-arm, the rest of the way to her quarters. He relished having her near and placed a hand over hers in gratitude for the rare gesture of affection. Their friendship was a shadow of what they had once shared, and of what they dreamed of sharing again, but they’d found stability and contentment in what remained. It was enough.
Chakotay had just left Janeway at her door and was walking toward his quarters when Ensign Mulcahey and Crewman Jor came striding around the corner, their shift finally over. Chakotay gave them a self-conscious nod as they passed and hoped that they hadn’t seen anything that would fuel the rumor mill.
“What do you make of that?” Jor wondered a few moments later, glancing over her shoulder to make sure they were alone. “Chakotay walking the captain to her door?”
“Friendly enough, I’d say.”
“You don’t know, Karel.” He called for a turbolift as they stared down the empty passageway. “Maybe we interrupted them just when they were about to profess their undying love.”
“Right. And then they went to their separate quarters?” Jor gave his shoulder an affable punch.
He grinned. “Did it ever occur to you that Janeway’s motivation to get home as quickly as possible might be because she wants him back?”
“I hope you’re right, Todd,” Jor laughed as she gave him a suggestive wink. “All-the-way, Janeway.”