What A Captain Needs
Summary: An Episode Addition to "The Haunting of Deck Twelve."
Disclaimer: Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount.
Kathryn watched with great interest as the elusive nebula they’d sought for three months grew larger of the viewscreen. She hoped it would provide a suitable home for the electromagnetic life form stored on deck twelve, but only time would tell. The life form had stowed away on the ship when they had collected deuterium from its habitat with the ship’s bussard collectors.
In a desperate effort to survive, the life form had caused massive problems all over the ship. First, it had attempted to force the ship to return to the nebula, and then, when it discovered that the nebula no longer existed, it had created an environment on Voyager that was hostile to human life. As the crew evacuated the ship, Kathryn had barely managed to forge a compromise, and now she was anxious to set the life form free and get on with their journey home.
When Voyager was in range, she stood and said to Tom, “That’s close enough. Let our momentum carry us in.”
“Cutting engines.” The helm chimed in response to the command. Tom looked up at the viewscreen and said, “There’s a creepy image. Reminds me of something out of Edgar Allen Poe.”
Harry added, “Looks like a vampire bat. You can make out the wings. Even the ears.” From across the bridge, he asked, “What do you see, Tuvok?”
“Two Starfleet officers with juvenile imaginations.”
Tom said, “Come on Tuvok. Haven’t you ever looked up at the clouds and seen an animal?”
“I will never understand the human need to find imagery in something as innocuous as a cloud.”
Kathryn appreciated the light-hearted banter, but she was eager to get on with it and regain complete control of her ship. “Harry, are we ready?”
“Then let’s do it.” She returned to the command center and made eye contact with Chakotay. His supportive expression assured her that they’d make it through this. Although she wasn’t fearful about what they were about to do, she definitely had concerns about how they’d handle any unplanned complications while they were without power.
She announced, “All hands, initiate shut down sequence.” The lights began to turn out as she took her seat. Chakotay turned on the lamp between them to illuminate their console, even though they couldn’t do anything but wait. She looked up at him and he smiled in return.
A few minutes later, Harry announced, “All decks report shutdown complete, Captain.”
“Janeway to Seven of Nine. We’re ready.”
Now they had to wait three hours while they coasted through the nebula. During that time, the plan was that the electromagnetic lifeform would exit the ship and find its way back home into the nebula while they tried to avoid attracting another one. Once they were clear, they could re-initialize the ship’s systems without endangering themselves.
After a few minutes of silence, Tom started telling ghost stories, but Kathryn’s attention was elsewhere. She thought back to when this all started.
The turbulence from the nebula got too rough because of feedback from the bussard collectors, she gave the order to cease the operation and leave. They’d collected a lot of deuterium and the risks of collecting more outweighed their need for it. Before they were out, an EM surge penetrated the hull, causing damage to three decks. Except for that, they thought they escaped relatively unscathed.
However, within a day, minor systems all over the ship began to malfunction. She had been in the ready room the following morning when Chakotay had delivered the report about all that was going wrong. The replicator had given her one terrible cup of coffee, and when she requested a second, the coffee materialized before the cup did. She leaned into the replicator and whispered, “We’re getting started on the wrong foot today, my friend.”
Chakotay asked, “Captain?”
“I'm sorry,” she said with embarrassment. “I was talking to Voyager.”
“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I used to have long conversations with my Maquis ship.”
“Really?” She was intrigued. “What did you two talk about?”
“Oh, I can’t tell you that.” He looked up and smothered a grin. “Captain/Starship confidentiality.”
“Of course,” she shook her head in amusement.
“If the Doctor heard us, he’d probably recommend counseling.”
She chuckled. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”
“Deal,” he said with a smile.
She looked out the viewport and asked, “Commander, do you see that?”
“A meteorite cluster.” He joined her at the viewport. “I doubt it’s anything to worry about.”
“I tend to agree, if it weren’t the same one that we passed an hour ago.” They went to the bridge, but the problems only escalated from there. The navigational array failed and they lost communication with the rest of the ship. She sent Chakotay to main engineering to find out what was happening, but then didn’t hear from him for over two hours.
Voyager was dead in space and system after system had malfunctioned. The temperature on the bridge was too high, and she was fighting irritability. She still managed to speak sweetly to the ship via the ops panel, “I’ll make you a deal, Voyager. The next M-class planetoid we find, we’ll set down, and I’ll give you a nice maintenance overhaul.” She knew she was flirting with danger to be talking to her ship in front of the crew, but she was getting frustrated.
She managed to get helm control back online and ordered Tom to take the helm. A huge mistake – he took the brunt of an EM surge that burned his face severely. If that weren’t enough, environmental controls continued to malfunction and all the breathable air was sucked out of the bridge, forcing them to evacuate.
They took Tom down to sickbay, and even though the situation was looking dire, she was relieved to see Chakotay, B’Elanna, and Seven were already there. Finally having the senior staff together, they were able to talk through all the problems that had occurred and deduced that they might be dealing with a sentient life form.
When sickbay started shutting down, they helped the injured get to deck thirteen where they could tend to them while setting a temporary command post in main engineering. The crew wasn’t getting anywhere and Kathryn was feeling more than a little aggravated. She was engrossed in the readings at the main computer core interface when Chakotay placed his hand on her back.
She sighed heavily and took solace in the small comfort his touch provided. “None. I can’t find any kind of pattern in the movement of the EM activity.”
“We’ve accounted for half the crew, so far, and everyone who has made it here is handling the situation well.”
Nodding to acknowledge his report, she said, “It’s obviously trying to change the ship’s environment and keep us from moving, but that doesn’t explain the rest of the shut downs. I don’t understand why it would attack replicators and sonic showers. Those have nothing to do with environment or navigation.”
“No, but those malfunctions were pretty early. It could have been learning the systems until it found what it was looking for.”
She turned to look at him, and a smile tugged at her lips. “You’ve got a point there.”
His hand squeezed her shoulder gently. “Glad I could help.”
Her eyes caught his for a moment and she felt the flutter that had recently been increasing in intensity every time she got close to him. Touching his chest, she said, “Chakotay, I forget to tell you how much I appreciate your calm demeanor when I'm approaching my wit’s end.”
“Thank you, but I find that taking care of the crew forces me to be calm. It’s just a bonus that it helps you concentrate, too.”
“We’re a good team.” She squeezed his arm and he gasped in pain. “You’re hurt?”
“Not bad… it’s fine,” he said through gritted teeth.
Alarmed, she grabbed one of the medical tri-corders and took a reading. “Where? How did it happen?”
“I was in a turbo-lift when it did a ten-deck free-fall. I fell on my arm, but it still works. There are others with much more serious injuries.” He put his hand over the tricorder to stop her.
“You’re sure?” she asked, worried.
“I'm sure,” he said confidently. “Let’s get back to work.”
She was about to argue, but another alarm distracted her. While asking for a report, she let her hand linger on his a bit longer than usual.
Her thoughts returned to the present when Chakotay asked, “Captain?”
“Hmmm?” She looked at him and realized that she had completely tuned out the conversation around her. “Did you ask me something?”
His smile was infectious, and she was glad the bridge crew was chattering happily and oblivious to her lack of participation. He said, “I just noticed that your mind is somewhere else. I was going to ask what you were thinking about.”
“Oh, just thinking about the day when this lifeform took over the ship.”
“Not exactly pleasant thoughts, but it’s not surprising considering the circumstances.”
She admitted quietly for his ears only, “I'm feeling a similar sense of foreboding, and I don’t like it.”
He reached across the command console and touched her arm reassuringly. “We’ve had a difficult few months. It’ll be good to put this behind us.”
“Difficult?” She raised an eyebrow. “That’s putting it mildly. I don’t know what I was thinking… sending the Doctor for a month to the Alpha Quadrant. It’s a good thing that we didn’t have some horrible viral outbreak. And what if he’d been gone when we almost lost Harry and B’Elanna in that shuttle accident?”
“Or if he hadn’t been here when we almost lost the good shepherd and her lost sheep.”
She could see the worry in his eyes and smiled empathically. “You scared me, too, you know. Getting yourself captured by a Borg cube.”
“They were only children.”
“I know,” she looked at her hands. “They’re a bright spot, even though meeting Icheb’s parents was infuriating.” She frowned.
“I agree. That still makes my blood run cold. At least we got to have a little fun outsmarting those imposters and relaxing on the Fair Haven holodeck program.”
She looked away. “I'm still embarrassed about that.”
“There’s really no need to be,” he whispered. “A little holodeck escape is good now and then.”
His eyes were warm and sincere, and reminded her of the ever-growing attraction that seemed to be occupying her thoughts lately. He understood her better than anyone ever had, and in recent months, she was finding that she yearned for his company more than usual. His kindness and compassion gave her a very peaceful feeling. “I appreciate your understanding.”
“I really do, you know.” He looked at her with caring eyes.
She returned his look, still oblivious to the banter going on around them. “Do you?”
He was quiet for a moment before saying, “I wish we were alone right now so we could talk about this more.”
Shrugging, she said, “I don’t think they’re paying any attention to us.”
“They pick up on more than we probably realize, but I’ll answer your question anyway.” He leaned in closer and whispered. “Yes, Kathryn, I do understand your need for a romantic diversion.”
She chewed on her lip as she studied him, wondering if she should brave admitting that the diversion was to help suppress her burgeoning desires for him. “Would you do something for me?”
Chuckling at his eager answer, she replied, “Watch what you promise, Commander. You have no idea what I'm about to ask.”
“Oh, I think I can handle just about anything you’d throw at me.” He glanced down and then back up again, hiding a little blush.
Taking a serious tone again, she asked, “Assuming today goes as planned, would you ask me about this again when we’re alone? I’d like to talk to you about it.”
“Of course.” He furrowed his eyebrows. “Are you considering another diversion?”
Absently fiddling with her commbadge, she simply replied, “Yes.”
He nodded towards her fingers. “Should I go to red alert?”
When she realized what she was doing, she quirked a smile. “I’ll let you decide.”
Their attention was refocused as the bridge crew drew them into their conversation. Kathryn was able to stop thinking about how they got into this fix until the ship began to shake. Seven broadcast a message to inform them that the turbulence was to be expected and all was going according to plan. Kathryn took a deep breath and tried to relax, but couldn’t help but think back again.
The electromagnetic lifeform had figured out how to communicate with her and had eventually allowed her to take the ship back to the nebula to get it home, but when they arrived at the proper coordinates, the nebula was gone. The collection of gases had drifted away and they had no way to track where it had gone.
The lifeform forced her from the bridge, unwilling to let her help further. It intended to turn Voyager into a hospitable environment for itself and force the crew to abandon the ship, despite her attempts to explain that the special environment couldn’t be maintained without the crew.
Kathryn was with the last group to get to the escape hatches. Chakotay helped get everyone in, but he stayed beside her. “That’s everybody but the captain and the first officer,” he said as the next pod became available.
“After you,” she said and then looked back, trying to think of something else she could do. Deciding that they’d have to figure it out from inside the escape pods, she turned to follow Chakotay only to have the door slam closed in front of her.
She yelled, “I did what you asked – We’re abandoning ship! What more do you want?” She paced around the corridor, trying to contain her panic.
“Diagnostic complete. Secondary systems offline. Primary systems at thirty-two percent. Estimated time to failure – six days, thirteen hours.”
“That sounds about right.” She threw up her hands in frustration. This life form had terrible timing and even worse listening skills.
“Captain Janeway, report to Engineering.”
“Like hell I will,” she yelled. She was not capable of getting the ship back together all by herself. It would be suicide and she wasn’t going to indulge this lifeform any further. She walked in the opposite direction from engineering and ran into a forcefield. She turned back around and yelled, “I won’t be your prisoner! You’ll have to kill me!”
“Acknowledged.” Pink nebula gas began to pour from the ventilation ducts. “Captain Janeway, report to Engineering.”
Her throat scratchy from the gas, she demanded, “Not until you restore life support and give me back control of my ship.”
“Unable to comply.”
“Then we’ll die here together,” she strangled. Coughing heavily, she went back to the door and pounded against it in frustration. “I'm guessing I’ve got about two more minutes and then you’re on your own.”
“Captain Janeway, report to Engineering.”
As best she could with her lungs burning, she managed to yell between gasps, “I told you… the only way… I'm helping… is if… you return… control… of… my… ship!” She sank to the floor with her back against the door, and with her last breaths, she could feel someone pounding on the other side. She knew Chakotay hadn’t left her. She collapsed to the deck.
Without warning, the gasses suddenly began to recede and the computer voice indicated, “Access to all systems has been restored.” The harsh red lights were replaced by the standard corridor lighting, and she pushed herself up, taking deep, painful breaths.
Seconds later, the door behind her opened and she felt herself fall backwards, but was caught by Chakotay before she hit the floor. Still gasping for breath, she clutched at his jacket as he helped her sit up.
“Slow breaths, Kathryn. Don’t hyperventilate.” He knelt beside her to support her back and hold her close.
“Hurts,” she croaked, trying to force air into her burning lungs.
“I know.” He laid his hand on her chest, offering his touch to help ease her breathing. “Slow and Easy.”
Her breath hitched and she started painful coughing that she couldn’t stop. He tried to put her oxygen mask on her, but she pushed it away. “Empty,” she managed to say between coughs.
He quickly pulled off his oxygen mask and held it against her face. “The pure oxygen will help. Try to take a deep breath.”
Holding onto his arms, she did as best she could, but it took a minute for the coughing to subside. When she had better control of her breathing, she looked up at him and saw the tracks of tears on his cheeks. She touched his face and shifted her vision to look into his deep brown eyes. Within them, she saw so much grief and worry that it made her heart break. She pushed the mask away and tried to assure him. “I'm okay,” she whispered.
He nodded and looked away to control his emotions. “Do we still need to get out of here?”
“No,” she rasped. “Recall everyone. We need to find a location on the ship where we can create a nebula environment until we find the entity a new home.”
Still holding her, he communicated with Harry and ordered him to take charge of getting the crew back to Voyager and the injured to sickbay. When he was done, he asked, “Can you stand up?”
She let him help her get to her feet. Hoarsely, she said, “It’s just my lungs.”
Arm-in-arm, they went back to engineering to get to work. It wasn’t until Harry reported to them a couple hours later that she finally let Chakotay take command and had Harry help her get to sickbay. By then, she was wheezing loudly and felt like she could barely get enough air to function.
Her attention was brought back from her memories when Chakotay reached across the console and took her hand. When he had her attention, he whispered, “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes,” she smiled with assurance. “My mind is just wandering.”
“You seem short of breath.”
“Oh,” she closed her eyes. “I was just remembering that day, again. How hard it was to breathe.”
He looked concerned, but let go of her hand. “We should only have an hour left and we’ll be out of here.”
Nodding, she folded her hands in her lap.
“Did I ever tell you that I came to sickbay later that night?”
“No,” she shook her head. “Any reason?”
“Other than to check on you?”
“I didn’t think that alone would be worth mentioning.”
“Well, no,” he glanced down. “It’s just that when I came to see you, you were sound asleep. We’re usually there for each other when we wake up in sickbay, but I never told you that I’d been there and left. I didn’t want to wake you.”
It was an unspoken tradition with them, and the fact was that she’d noticed his absence. “I assumed you were busy taking care of the ship or asleep.”
“A little of both.” He turned slightly in his chair to get more comfortable. “But neither place was where I wanted to be.”
“I know,” she empathized. “But I appreciate both your concern about me and your taking command of the ship when I can’t.”
“That’s what I'm here for.” He looked pointedly at her and added, “Both things.”
She felt blessed to have him as her friend. His restrained affection towards her bolstered her confidence about broaching the topic of her feelings later. Because the bridge was so dark, she braved reaching across their console to hold his hand. He looked up at her with a question in his eyes when she didn’t immediately let go. She squeezed his fingers in reassurance, gently rubbing her thumb across his knuckles.
He responded by adjusting his hold to get a more solid grip. As they joined the rest of the conversations going on around them, his fingers softly caressed hers. They didn’t break the physical connection until main power was ready to come back online, something they’d never done before. It was just what Kathryn needed, and Chakotay didn’t seem to mind.
After dinner in the messhall, they ended up back at his quarters. He said, “I hope you feel like celebrating. I snatched a bottle of the Antarian cider to commemorate getting our ship back.”
She pursed her lips as she took the glass. “I didn’t realize that I’d lost it.”
He looked at her askance. “Not even with your dying breath.”
“I didn’t think it would actually kill me before I helped it.” She sat down on the couch and neatly crossed her legs. “Not the smartest ultimatum I’ve ever made.”
He sat down next to her. “Too bad it chose that moment to listen to you. I guess you had its attention.”
They continued with small talk for a few minutes until they ran out of things from the day to talk about. He refilled their glasses and asked, “So, you wanted me to ask you about the hologram diversion again. Do you still want to discuss it?”
She took another long sip of cider and said, “Yes.” Now she just had to figure out what to say.
He waited a long moment for her to say something. “Are you sure? You don’t seem very talkative.”
She bit her lip and looked down into the gold liquid. “I'm a little uncertain about how to broach the topic.”
“Okay,” he said carefully. “You said that you’re planning a diversion. Does it have to do with Fair Haven?”
“Indirectly.” She looked at him to try to gauge his feelings. At times, she could read him like an open book and at others, like now, she had no idea. “What are you thinking about, Chakotay?”
He smirked. “Well, I'm wondering whether I should go ahead and initiate that red alert. If this idea of yours has got you so flustered that you can’t find a way to tell me, it must be serious.”
“It’s not red alert worthy, I assure you.” She laughed nervously. “This is a personal matter.”
“Fair Haven, then. Tell me about him.”
“There’s nothing to tell.” She sipped her drink and decided that she should just come right out and say it. “I’ve been craving a stronger connection with someone and I thought Michael would fit the bill. He didn’t, and he actually made my longings stronger.”
“I see.” He cleared his throat. “And so, now what?”
She barreled on. “Now I'd like to say to hell with the expected isolation of a starship captain and throw caution to the wind. I'm no longer willing to spend the next forty years alone.” Looking him in the eye, she said, “What you and I have is wonderful and it fulfills my need for friendship, but I also need to connect physically and emotionally with someone whom I know will be with me for the rest of my life.”
He rubbed his jaw and bit back a smile. “Do you have someone in mind?”
As she set her glass down, she said, “Yes.” Looking back at him, she added, “But I'm not sure if he’s come to the same conclusion or even if it’s the right time for him.”
The corner of Chakotay’s mouth twitched. “If it doesn’t work out, I know just the crewman to set you up with.”
She pressed her lips together and thwacked his chest hard with the back of her hand. “I'm trying to be serious here.”
“Ouch!” He caught her hand and chuckled. “All right, I deserved that.” He put his glass down and tugged on her hand. With a more serious tone, he said, “Come here.”
She leaned in close at his urging and their lips met in a tender kiss.
He tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “Do you really have doubts about how I feel?”
“Only a few.” She traced his lips with her fingertip. “I didn’t want to presume or take you for granted.”
“You needn’t worry,” he said as he kissed her finger. “I love you, and because of what you have to be out there,” he nodded towards the corridor, “I’ll be whatever you need me to be in here.”
She looked into his eyes. “I want you to be yourself – unrestrained by our positions on this ship or any parameters I may have imposed up to this point. I'm dropping them all.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking for.”
“Oh? Enlighten me,” she challenged.
“I’d overwhelm you.”
She shook her head. “I doubt it. I want you to be completely honest with me, so I can start meeting your needs as well as you meet mine. What do you want?”
His eyes flashed with desire. “I want to take you to bed right now and marry you at the next opportunity. Then I want to live happily ever after, and if we get home in time, I want a family.”
Her face slowly transformed into what was probably her biggest smile ever. “As I said – be yourself.”
“Are you sure?”
She stood up and extended her hand. “First officer’s quarters have a large bed, don’t they?”
“Does it matter?”
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