Series: Star Trek: Voyager
What in the name of Kahless has Chakotay been up to all these years?
When Gene Roddenberry comes to me and complains, I'll stop.
The first few years, B'Elanna had been too shy to ask about her former Captain's personal life, but gradually she'd adjusted to the changeover from Maquis rule by personality to the Starfleet command structure. Or maybe it was just Janeway's rule by personality that had replaced Chakotay's. In any event, almost a year after he'd come back from that planet and a few months before that pesky Borg had shown up, she'd decided that he needed a friend who could be a real confidante. He was, after all, a very private man.
Of course, to approach the unapproachable Commander required a Maquis stealth operation. B'Elanna went in under cover of Paris; that is, she went to Chakotay for advice about her then-new relationship with Tom. She even took his advice, now and again, if her own Klingon methods went too awry.
To tell the truth, Torres was quite impressed with herself. Every day she knocked another little chink out of the Commander's armor - she smiled at him when the Captain pawed his chest, she nudged his elbow when Janeway came into the mess hall, she told him how very happy she was with Tom, thanks to his advice. After a few months of warming him up, she finally sprang the question one night in the messhall.
"What are you doing about her? You must have a plan."
Of course he was shocked at the question, but she asked it so blithely, like the old friend that she was, like the bit of casual conversation that it was, that he had to answer her.
"Lurking?" Torres repeated, bewildered. It was the Maquis expression for what Tom preferred to call 'casing the joint'. By now they all knew every corner of Voyager - in fact, she felt as though she'd repaired every conduit and disinfected every bio-neural gelpack on the ship.
As she pondered this mystery, the Captain sashayed into the messhall. Torres watched Chakotay carefully. He, in turn, was following Janeway's movements out of the corner of his eye, as though she were a Cardassian patrolman he was planning to take out with a phaser rifle. Why hadn't she seen this before? Two years ago she would have said he was planning a mutiny. But now...
B'Elanna had built up a healthy fear of Janeway over the past three years and she wasn't so sure anymore that Chakotay needed a confidante. Or rather, she wasn't sure she wanted to be associated in any way with the Maquis lurking operation when it came to light.
Torres began distancing herself, slowly and carefully, from the topic of Janeway - one less smile here, one less nudge there. She'd been at it for a month when Seven of Nine came aboard and there was nothing to nudge and smile about anymore, anyway. The command pair fought. It was, as Tom said more than once, like seeing your parents fight. They fumed. They cold-shouldered each other. Tom hoped they'd work things out, but B'Elanna gave up all hope. She completely forgot about the lurking.
One evening, about seven years into their trek across the Delta Quadrant, Torres found herself seated next to Chakotay in the mess hall. Around them a diplomatic reception swished and swirled. The Commander complimented her on her blood-red, floor-length dress.
"Only certain designs were acceptable to the Natuzi." She gestured toward their lanky ambassador, who was standing by the buffet table. "I suppose it's better than being stuck in a dress uniform like you men."
"Tom looks nice in his dress uniform," Chakotay commented, with that inscrutable smile he'd been wearing for two years now.
B'Elanna felt a sudden chill, which she failed to identify as her long-dormant instinct to keep out of the lurking operation. She was soon distracted when the Captain sashayed through the messhall doors and over to the ambassador, a floor-length black dress with tiny cutouts around the waist seeming to follow her in, rather than hang from her shoulders like a decent piece of clothing should.
Torres watched Chakotay like a hawk. His eyes were fixed on the Captain; he only dropped them to his glass once. Curious, she looked up at Janeway at that moment. The Captain was just glancing over at them. B'Elanna smiled back, and, once Janeway had turned away, looked over at the Commander again. He was just raising his eyes to her back. Torres felt another chill - his timing was eerie. "What in the name of Kahless have you been doing all these years?"
"Chakotay, you're not still...lurking, are you?"
"Have you ever known me to give up in the middle of a promising operation?"
"It's been seven years, Chakotay - I hardly call that promising."
"The first year, I could feel her looking at me when my back was turned. Over the viewscreen on the Liberty, on the Caretaker's array, on the Ocampa homeworld, then on Voyager's bridge - anywhere, anytime she looked at me, I knew it. The second year, I could feel her enter the room. I never looked at a door that year, to test myself. The third year, I could tell where she was looking; I could almost see through her eyes."
"The fourth year wasn't so good," Torres prompted him when he grew quiet.
"The fourth year, I always knew where she was - the holodeck, the mess hall, her ready-room, the cargo bay, her quarters. From one glare at me, or one comment to Tuvok, I could tell where she'd be spending her free time for a week. The fifth year, I knew what she was going to say before she said it. I wished I didn't, because it was never what I wanted to hear, but I knew. Do you know what it's like being reamed out by her in duplicate?" Torres didn't answer. "Then in the sixth year, I knew what she was thinking, even if she didn't say it."
"And this year? You're watching her now - what do you see?"
"I see her aura. It flowed into the room behind her. It almost touched me when she looked at me. It's surrounding the ambassador now."
"Aura? Is this more of your spiritual stuff?"
"I don't think it's spiritual. It's rather animal, the way she affects everyone around her. Deep down she knows she'd doing it, though she won't admit it to herself. That's why I couldn't quite catch it last year."
"Chakotay, this...hobby of yours - isn't it a waste of time?"
"We have plenty of time out here, B'Elanna."
"I mean, you don't think you're really making progress, do you?"
"You have to know the enemy before you strike."
The Captain glanced their way again as the ambassador filled a glass of punch for her. Out of the corner of her eye, Torres saw Chakotay smile an innocent smile. Something small and hunted flashed in Janeway's eyes for a moment and was gone; if B'Elanna hadn't been having this extraordinarily disturbing conversation with Chakotay, she would never have noticed it.
"I can't believe we've felt sorry for you all these years," the half-Klingon growled quietly. "That spurned lover act, the heart on your sleeve, the whole pained-but-devoted friend thing, all those times Tom has tried to trap you two in a turbolift together or get her to dance with you...that poor woman."
"The covering fire has been greatly appreciated, Lieutenant. Do thank your husband for me."
With that, he stood up and walked over to the Captain. Torres was afraid to watch, but like a deer in the headlights she couldn't quite pull her attention away. She saw him dart past the Captain's defenses and wrap an arm around her waist. Somehow he'd managed to trap her arm behind him, so that she was forced to reciprocate the gesture.
"What's wrong, B'E?" Tom asked, flopping down in the now-empty seat and taking her hand.
"What am I shushing about?" he whispered in her ear.
She refused to speak at first. Picking at the food Tom had brought over from the buffet table, she watched the couple. Finally, she whispered back to Tom, never taking her eyes off Chakotay: "It's like looking at one of those optical illusions with the vase and the faces. One way you look at it, the Commander is just doing his old 'rescue the Captain from the party' act, chatting up the ambassador, preparing to pawn their guest off on Tuvok and then cover Janeway's retreat, only to be patted on the head at the door of her quarters like a good puppy dog and then sent to his lonely cabin to dream about her.
"Then your perspective changes with a jarring snap, like a plasma conduit just turned on in your stupid, stupid Klingon brain, and you see it the other way around. The dear, pitiful, harmless Commander waited until she went for the punch - the punch we were so careful, you and I, to be sure Neelix didn't warn her about, the punch only a Natuzi should drink. Now he's the only thing holding her up, and he's about to pawn the ambassador off on Tuvok. Funny how we finally found a culture like Vulcan's, isn't it? I'm sure Tuvok, Vorik and the ambassador's entourage will be up all night meditating and discussing Poetics, rather than hailing anyone in the middle of a romantic scene. Meanwhile, he's already steering her out into the corridor."
"Isn't that what we planned, B'E?"
"What we planned, Helm Boy? Do you really think we planned this?" She paused to mutter a few choice Klingon words. "Did I ever tell you about our supply run to the Dosi Homeworld in the Gamma Quadrant?"
"We hung in space off Deep Space Nine for three months, loaded with stolen Cardassian latinum, running silent, lurking, waiting for a chance to get through the wormhole undetected. For three months, we couldn't cook, we couldn't speak above a whisper, we couldn't take a sonic shower--"
"--we just sat there, in the emergency lighting, bored out of our minds. It went on and on and on. The only one who was still sane in the end was him. And you know, he looked just like he does nowadays on the bridge during a double shift, when she's hiding out in her ready room for Kahless knows what reason, and he's staring at the viewscreen like he could wait forever."
Helm Boy looked perplexed. "You're not saying he's been waiting seven years for us to set him up, are you?"
She grinned her feral grin at him. "Not exactly, Starfleet, not exactly. He set us up. He's been training us for seven years, with that martyr act of his, the p'tak - training us to freeze turbolifts, to distract meddling Vulcans, to drag her to parties and sneak out when they're alone on the dance floor, to leave out Natuzi punch for her, and only her, to drink."
Tom was about to deny it all, but in the back of his mind he could hear Chakotay asking him, only the day before, to keep the Captain away from the punch. He'd had that sad, 'I would look after the Captain myself if she'd let me' look in his eye, and in that moment the punch plot was born. Or so Tom had believed. "We don't even know what the punch does," he reflected sadly.
"I think I know. He was nursing a glass of something when he was sitting here. I think he was testing its potency - to determine when to strike. In the meantime, he told me all about his seven year Maquis operation. He thanks you for your help, by the way."
She growled at his stupidity. "It's a truth serum, flyboy."
"Oh." He paused. "Oh!"
"It's a good thing I married you for your looks," she muttered. "Kahless, I need a drink."
"I'll get us some punch."
"You're coming in."
"Yes, I am."
The Captain sighed and keyed in her override. "Something to drink?"
"Hot mulled wine, two," she ordered the replicator, and carried the mugs over to the couch, which he had already occupied. Funny how it all suddenly seemed like a war...
"I've lost, haven't I?" she asked, as she snuggled against him.
"Yes, but you put up a heck of a fight."
"I flew the Kobiyashi Maru for seven years..."
"Seven glorious years."
"My crew was against me." She frowned.
"They thought they were on your side. I tricked them."
"They are a bit slow sometimes. I thought you were, too."
"Never underestimate the enemy, Kathryn."