Lines in the Sand IV: Dawn
Note: Thank you to Liz for betas, support, brainstorming, and silliness. Also thanks to Amiroq for her comments. As always, thanks to JEWEL mailing list for their help and for putting up with "just one more question." Thanks to Michelle for typing out parts of "Pathways" and "Mosaic" for me. Credit, as always, to Kim for his help with the technobabble. Thank you to Monica for the Delta Flyer details.
I loved the mirrors. The mirrors in the traveling carnival that came to Bloomington every fall, that is. You had your usual assortment of freaks from across the galaxies, like Klingons without forehead ridges or silver Bolians and of course, the staple of a two-headed Terran.
The carnival also offered the usual array of dizzying, nausea-inducing rides including my nemesis, the zero gravity spinner. Take a tumble in that one and it was nearly impossible to walk a straight line afterwards.
But the mirrors, now those attracted me. We - my sister and I - would walk into the funny house, fingers clenched into a fist, giddy with anticipation but already tense with fear and excitement. Every funny house had the usual assortment of strange noises, slimy things to touch and creaking floor boards, but the end - those mirrors, now that's what excited me.
There were mirrors that elongated, that distorted, that shrunk - all of it casting a strange illusion on reality. In a word, it was... disconcerting.
I only bring up the carnival because that same feeling of confusion is very apparent now as Chakotay and I stare at each other.
In the past, we have had our arguments, our inability to see eye to eye, but this, but this is different. In just a few short days, he has changed. I don't know how I know this - I just do. He looks different, more relaxed, more confident, and he looks comfortable. Comfortable as in he belongs here, has always belonged here.
Comfortable as he never appeared during our seven years together.
hurts. Really, truly hurts in a way I did not think possible.
If Chakotay is aware of any tension between us, he gives no sign as he looks at me, impassively and unemotionally.
"How are you?" I ask formally, only slightly aware of a Ktarian leading Paris away and of Tuvok hovering over my right shoulder.
"Good," Chakotay says. "I'm glad you're here."
"Have they treated you well?"
"Well enough. It has been... confusing, to say the least."
"I'd agree with that."
"Come, let's go somewhere warm," Chakotay says. "The chill gets under your skin after a while."
Chakotay leads the way, with the other Maquis falling in behind him. I don't know if it's an unconscious decision on their part, but they - Chell, Gerron and Ayala - look to Chakotay as their leader; it's strange because for seven years, they viewed me as such. But I suppose, it's like leaving the funny house - I enjoyed a surrealistic experience for a long period of time and now, well, now things were back the way they had been before the Caretaker.
The Maquis have apparently made the best of their situation; the buildings are functional if not attractive. They have opted for efficiency in design and layout, aligning most of their structures on either side of the dirt road. At the head of the road is the building that Chakotay grandly refers to as the meeting house.
We climb the three steps up and immediately are assailed by a cloud of warm air.
"I didn't realize I was so cold," I confess as Chakotay indicates a bench.
"Can I get you coffee?" he asks. I suppose he thinks my answer is a foregone conclusion because he heads immediately to the replicator. I look at Tuvok, who shrugs.
"This is... interesting," Tuvok says in that careful way he uses when he's trying so hard not make judgments.
The interior of the meeting hall is simple - several rows of tables and benches arranged in two columns running the length of the room. There are six windows - two on the long wall, one each on the shorter walls and the remaining two on either side of the door. The Maquis did not decorate this room in any way. There are no personal effects, no homey touches. This last realization saddens me in a way that I did not think possible.
Chakotay hands me a steaming mug. I take a sip. He has
replicated it exactly the way I like - French Roast, served black with two spoons of sugar.
"Thank you," I say. I look around.
"We were worried," Chakotay says. He takes the seat opposite of mine. "We saw the explosion. Felt it, actually, and no one would tell us what happened to Voyager. It's good to see you, Captain."
"We felt the same," I say. "We didn't know if you made it or not. Only that an order had been submitted for your release. However, no one would tell us if you had been released at all."
"I'm surprised they didn't just leave us on that station," Chakotay says with a trace of uncharacteristic bitterness. "That would have solved the Maquis problem."
"Curious." Tuvok tips his head to the side. "Indeed, if it had not been for Admiral Paris' intervention, it is doubtful you and the others would have been released."
"Admiral Paris?" Chakotay asks in confusion. "What about him?"
"It's a long story," I say. I restrain the urge to cover his hand with mine and it takes so much willpower to keep from reaching across the table to run my hands through his black hair.
"We're still trying to figure it out ourselves. Needless to say, the events of the past six days have been extraordinary."
"We had much to discuss," Tuvok says primly. "And we do not have a lot of time. There have been some questions raised -"
The door opens and the Ktarian stands there, data PADD in hand.
"Jessup," Chakotay says. "Captain, this is Herid Jessup. Jessup, Kathryn Janeway, and this is Commander Tuvok."
"Nice to meet you," Jessup says in a voice that implies otherwise.
"What is it?" Chakotay asks, clearly irritated at the interruption.
"I need some assistance in the Delta Flyer," Jessup says. "Tom Paris thinks that the EMH can help B'Elanna. He wants to download the program to the Infirmary."
"B'Elanna?" I ask. "What's wrong with her?"
"We found her unconscious," Chakotay says. "Possibly an allergic reaction to an insect bite, but I'm beginning to think that it might be something more dire. She and Jessup went to signal Voyager and she was injured. When we went back to get her, we found her in delirium, screaming about forgiveness. Unfortunately we have not been able to treat her illness with the supplies we have now."
"How serious is her condition?" I ask the Ktarian sharply. He shakes his head.
"It doesn't look good," Jessup answers.
"I will assist you." Tuvok gets up from his seat. "Captain, Commander."
Jessup shoots Chakotay an irate look, possibly at the mention of the title "Commander." I shouldn't be surprised; old feelings do not fade easily or without pain.
With Tuvok and Jessup gone, an awkward silence - the type that usually follows the typical "I'm right, you're wrong" arguments - descends.
Finally, I reach across the table and cover Chakotay's hand with mine.
"Hi," I say very softly. He offers up a smile, shy but sincere. I note, with a pang, that his smile doesn't quite make it up to his eyes, and that, that worries me. "I - how have you been?"
"Cold," he says. "Worried."
"You said that before," I remind him. He pulls his hand away.
"Sorry," he says. "How is the coffee?"
I take a deep breath. "I've missed you, Chakotay."
He raises an eyebrow. "What?"
"You heard me. I was... I missed having you around. I can't figure out what's going on and that disturbs me. There are pieces, but no picture. I thought, I thought if I could talk to you, maybe you would be able to guide me in the right direction. You've always been so good at showing me how things fit together. I missed... your advice."
"Glad you acknowledge that."
Bitterness edges his voice, a deep-seeded resentment. I think about all of the times we have gone toe to toe and of all the times, I ignored his counsel. And with a pang of shame, I remember clearly relieving him of duty - an action I've never been proud of and have never apologized for.
"I know we've disagreed in the past," I tell him quietly. "Sometimes violently. We've been able to get past all of that, Chakotay. I need... I want your support. I need to know that you're with me, whatever happens now, I'd like to know that you are there."
"You don't have to doubt my loyalty, Kathryn."
"I wasn't. I didn't know if things had changed now that you were back with the Maquis."
"I don't mind being here, if that's what you are asking. I know the Federation doesn't want me, and hell, after what I went through with your Starfleet-"
"My Starfleet?" I ask sharply. "What are you talking about, Chakotay?"
"You forget that for seven years you commanded a Starfleet ship. Starfleet on the surface, Kathryn. Beneath, it was something else. Maybe there was a bit of a Maquis undercurrent and we pledged our allegiance to Starfleet because we had no other choice. I hate to break it to you, but we Maquis, sometimes we felt suffocated by the Starfleet attitudes, that stiff adherence to laws that did not quite apply to our situation. We never thought we had to die for Starfleet, but then your fatalistic outlook was one thing I never admired about you."
He knits his fingers together and focuses down on the table's metallic surface. I take a sip of the coffee and then put the mug down.
"I'm glad you're finally being honest with me," I tell him.
He shrugs. "I've had a lot of time to think, Kathryn. Fresh air, it has a way of clearing the mind."
There's something - a tiny note of self-realization - in his voice, that catches my attention.
"I've been thinking also, and I still don't regret any of it. Chakotay, I need your help. I want to find out what's going on, and I think you might hold the missing part."
"What are you talking about?"
"Admiral Paris and I had a conversation prior to the destruction of the starbase. He mentioned something to me, something a scheme involving Starfleet officers and border colonists."
Chakotay shakes his head. "Doesn't sound familiar."
His tone is easy, almost lazy in its intonation.
"Think," I lean forward. "Some officers in Starfleet, after the treaty was signed, offered their protection for a fee. The protection never came through, the Cardassians ran roughshod over the colonists while the Federation turned its back on its own citizens. The Maquis came into being, yet there were Starfleet officers out there, collecting sums for a service that would never be rendered. Who were they, Chakotay?"
Chakotay looks at some point over my shoulder, deliberately averting my gaze.
"Chakotay?" I ask very softly.
"Let me talk to the others," Chakotay says. "Maybe they know."
Yeah right, I think. Chakotay has never been a terrific liar; a few days on a frozen planet haven't changed Chakotay's lack of ability to deceive me.
We sit in silence for a few minutes and then I clear my throat.
"Chakotay," I say. "I meant what I said, about wanting your help and support."
"I know and I appreciate it."
"Maybe we should go check on B'Elanna," Chakotay suggests quickly. "I'd like to see if Tom has diagnosed what's wrong with her."
"You're avoiding me," I tell him. "Don't worry. We'll continue this conversation at another time."
"I don't doubt it," he answers evenly.
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