Disclaimer: All things Voyager belong to CBS/Paramount. I’m just playing with a couple of the characters for fun.
a/n: This is a story from Janeway’s point of view that is a response to KJaneway115’s story “The Last Straw” (from Chakotay’s point of view) which can be found here on . The spoken lines at the end come from her story (with permission-thanks!).
Crossing the Line
I knew instantly that I’d crossed the line. I could see the anger and disappointment in my first officer’s eyes as he barely nodded his acquiescence and then left the ready room in a rush. He would carry out my orders. After working with Chakotay for six years, I know he will follow my orders to the letter, no matter whether he agrees with them or not. He probably thinks I will get a degree of satisfaction from that knowledge, but he would be wrong. All I feel is guilt, because I let myself go too far, let our disagreement become too personal. Again.
I have plenty of ways to rationalize away my guilt. A captain has to have the single voice of command—and that is my voice. There can be only one person carrying the burden of command—and I am that person. I have to do what I believe is right if I hope to live with myself and accept what happens to us as a result. No one else on this ship can share that responsibility, even if they try to lighten it every way they can. The cardinal rule of command school is to protect one’s authority, but I know that my first officer was not challenging my authority. He was voicing his concerns over my decision in private, just as Starfleet officers are taught to do. He is duty bound to surface these issues with me, but I find that I resent it.
I assume I know what he’s going to say when he comes to me. Most of the time, I have already worked through his objections. I become impatient as he explains them to me, but that doesn’t mean that I should cut him short or refuse to hear him out. Interrupting him mid-sentence sends a bad message. It’s not just impolite, it’s arrogant. It makes him think that his input isn’t worth listening to or that I’ve overdosed on my authority, decided to ignore any and all dissension, banish any doubt of my superiority. Out here, so for from command oversight, I walk a thin line and need balance, and yet, when he tries to provide that balance, I push him away.
I know what I’m doing is wrong, and yet I do it in spite of myself.
To me, this is more than a battle of wills, it is a personal problem. Tuvok has confronted me about many decisions, yet has never stormed from my presence if I refuse to hear him out. He might be equally as angry or disappointed with my decision as Chakotay, but hides it behind his Vulcan stoicism. The thing is, when he leaves, I never feel bereft of his company the way I feel when Chakotay storms out. I don’t look for Tuvok when I arrive at a social function in the mess hall. I don’t invite Tuvok to my quarters for a quiet dinner and an evening of reminiscing.
But, that’s it, of course. Chakotay is more to me than a first officer, and that is the crux of my problem.
From the first day I met him, the lines between us were blurred. Two captains are equals, even if their ships are different in size and power, and a captain who sacrifices his ship, unbidden, deserves to be treated with great respect. He put his life on the line that day, before he knew me, and came so close to death that the transporter chief told me that he could smell the smoke of the Maquis ship’s destruction on Chakotay’s clothes when he beamed him aboard. He defended me when I decided to destroy the caretaker’s array, granted me the authority I needed, as an equal. And then, by necessity, he subordinated himself to my captaincy. Not only am I indebted to him for his sacrifice, but also for his help in blending the crews together in a hierarchy where I am at the top. He willingly complied. All this and more he gifted to me as his commanding officer.
His loyalty was personal from the first, and yet I try my best to pretend that it isn’t, that he follows my orders simply because I’m the captain. I should listen to him when he has a suggestion. I shouldn’t disappoint him by cutting him off before he’s finished talking. I should be telling him how much his support means to me, how much I need him.
Which brings us back to the problem—the emotions between us. The one issue I refuse to face. The captain can’t have more than loyalty from a first officer, I remind myself, no matter how far we are from home, no matter how hard it is to find some sort of relief from the pressure of command. It doesn’t really matter what I want, and, on some level, Chakotay understands that fact. But people have needs, for connection and support. People do, but captains don’t. It makes no sense, but that is what I’ve been taught to believe. I can’t be in love with my first officer. I can’t let my first officer be in love with me. And so, I hurt him because I hurt so badly, and when I see that pain in his eyes, God help me, I am glad, even relieved, that he walks away. Problem solved.
Chakotay is the logical one for me to turn to for friendship and reassurance, but I’m not sure I can keep from crossing the line to something more than friendship. He openly invites me to come to him with my troubles, and I resist. He pulls, I push. He opens, I close. He asks, I refuse to answer. An eternal yin and yang.
When we are laughing and talking so easily together, I forget that he is my subordinate, that I hold his life in my hands, that I am responsible for him, that I can’t treat him like an equal in my quarters and a subordinate everywhere else. So, when I let him get too close and realize what I’ve done, I’m gripped by fear. I worry that I care too much, that I will lose focus, that I will become less driven to get my ship home. And, inevitably, that fear is followed by anger—at myself, at him, at Starfleet, at my crew, at the cold cruelty of the universe. It is all, as Tuvok would conclude, most illogical.
The anger is what makes me cross the line, the way I did today, and it almost always follows a life and death crisis or a night of magical connection, of amazing closeness. At the worst possible moments, I become cross and shove him away, sometimes for no good reason, and I wound him in the process. But later, when I’m alone in my ready room, when I return to my solitary quarters, when I see others pairing off, I regret what I’ve done. I wonder what I was thinking. How can I face this strangling isolation and keep my sanity? My food turns to sawdust in my mouth, I can’t concentrate on my work, and I become conscious of the racing beat of my heart.
That’s when I’m tempted to call him, to invite him over for dinner, to send him yet another mixed message. I never apologize, but I reach out to him for reassurance. It is irrational, and it’s only a matter of time before he can no longer tolerate it. Each time is another step closer to pushing him away forever.
He must suspect how I feel. Surely everyone on the crew can see how much I need him. Does he see the two sides of me, struggling? The arrogant, independent, bossy captain and the lonely, worried woman? The battle I fight over accepting or rejecting his friendship? This half-crazed woman torn in two? This ongoing struggle to come to terms with my feelings, my duty, my training.
Sooner or later, Chakotay will give up and move on, and then my decision will be made for me. How I dread that moment. One day, he will walk out and not come back. Maybe sooner than later.
Maybe today is the day.
I tell myself to be prepared. I steel myself to let him go. I promise myself that I will be gracious and forgiving when he gives up. I should distance myself from him right this moment, use today’s argument as the first step toward a more professional, restrained relationship, a proper distance between a captain and first officer. I resolve to do just that. I am relieved to have made the decision myself, rather than having it forced on me.
And then I hesitate and know that my resolve will crumble. With every step I take away from the bridge and toward my quarters, I become less sure of my decision. I need his friendship, his kindness, his loyalty . . . and more. I may not approve of this bond that holds us together, but I know that I need it. What would become of me without it?
And so, I reach for my commbadge, even though our angry words still ring in my ears.
“Janeway to Chakotay.”
Captain. His use of my rank unnerves me. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest as I stop inside the doors of my darkened quarters.
“Have you eaten yet?”
I nearly falter at his abrupt reply. His voice is distant, cold, formal. I should think of some other reason for calling—perhaps a request for an early meeting or a more detailed report on some lingering issue. But, for once, I can’t think of an excuse, and so I forge on.
“Join me for dinner. I could really use the company tonight.” I am amazed that my voice sounds so calm and normal, so matter-of-fact, even friendly. I feel a bit woozy as I stand perfectly still, staring at the carpet, my hands fisted at my sides.
He doesn’t answer right away. The silence stretches too long, and my heart shifts inside my chest. I hold my breath, wondering if I should withdraw the offer, say that I didn’t realize how late it was, that I’m completely out of rations, anything that would end the awkward tension between us.
And then my imagination takes over. What was he doing when I called? What did I interrupt? Has he finally decided that enough is enough? Is this the moment that our friendship ends?
I open my mouth to speak, but find that the words won’t come. The tables have turned, and I am no longer in command. Chakotay must decide whether he can abide my bewildering behavior any longer, and I will have no choice but to submit to his decision. It’s only fair.
I can hear him take a breath as I await his reply.